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Greece steps up military presence on its border with Turkey

EPA/ZOLTAN BALOGH HUNGARY OUT
Migrants, who came from Turkey, about to make landfall from their overloaded rubber dinghy as they arrive at the coast near Mytilene, Lesbos island, Greece, 06 December 2015. France and Germany are calling for the deployment of EU border agents to safeguard the bloc's external frontiers if member states have "severe deficiencies" in carrying out border controls, according to a letter seen on 06 December 2015. The European Union is trying to curb an influx of migrants and asylum seekers, with more than 950,000 people having reached the continent this year. Most are headed for wealthy countries such as Germany and Sweden, with many of them fleeing war-torn Syria.

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Greece has boosted the number of police and soldiers along its border in an effort to stop the arrival of new waves of refugees from Turkey. It also stepped up security by putting up a fence at a point where migrants can easily walk across, as well as by installing a network of surveillance cameras.
A recently published report found that despite the 2016 refugee deal between the EU and Turkey, only 189 irregular migrants who crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece were returned to Turkey last year. Under the deal, Turkey has promised to stop the flow of Syrian migrants travelling to the EU.
The Greek ministry of national defense said it has equipped fisherman to engage in border patrol activities, as the border region’s network of canals are difficult to control.
“They even threaten us on Greek territory. I was on the river and was ready to cast my nets when I was approached by Turkish soldiers from the other shore. They fixed weapons on me immediately and said, ‘This is Turkey.’ But I was at least 100 meters from the border”, a local fishermen said.
The move comes in time of rising tensions between the two countries over a geopolitical conflict. On 31 January, a Turkish research vessel violated the boundaries of Greece’s continental shelf, while operating south of the island of Kastellorizo.
Turkey has angered the West by signing a maritime deal with Libya, which gives Turkey access to an economic zone across the Mediterranean. It however, violates international law and goes against the sovereign rights of other countries, including Greece.
The Greek government hopes that the crisis can be avoided if the maritime deal is cancelled through peace negotiations. However, cancellation is highly unlikely as the establishment of the deal is one of the major objectives of Turkey’s intervention in the Libyan crisis.
The EU has also prepared sanctions against Turkey over its exploratory gas drilling off the coast of Cyprus, where the Greek Cypriots claim exclusive economic rights. Turkey claims it is drilling within its territorial rights and that Turkish Cypriots have the same rights as Greek Cypriots.

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