Athens: Greece is quadrupling the number of guards at its border with Turkey and boosting other defenses in part because of a potential influx of Syrian refugees, a government minister said on Monday.
Greece is the busiest entry point for illegal immigrants trying to reach the European Union. Turkey, meanwhile, is hosting thousands of Syrians who have been fleeing their country's civil war.
There's been no sign yet of a notable number of Syrians making the roughly 1,400 kilometre (870-mile) trek across Turkey to Greece.
But the government in Athens is under pressure to crack down on illegal migration in general, especially as the country struggles with an economic crisis whose symptoms include an unemployment rate of more than 20 per cent.
Greek Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said 1,800 additional officers had been ordered to the border with Turkey.
Greece currently has around 600 border guards in the area, according the Panhellenic Association of Border Guard Officers.
Dendias also said 26 floating barriers will be placed along the Evros River, known as the Meric River in Turkey, that divides the two countries.
"There is major concern," Dendias said when asked about the situation in Syria, where rights activists estimate more than 19,000 people have been killed since a popular uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began in March 2011.
"With the approval of the prime minister, 1,800 border guards are being transferred ... So that at long last we can attempt to seal the Evros area.
Our aim is to put an end to Greece's" porous frontier, Dendias said after meeting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
First Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 10:54