On May 20-24 IOM organized a study visit on green border protection to the Greek-Turkish border for 8 officers from Belarus and Ukraine, representing the central administrations as well as border detachments guarding the Belarusian-Ukrainian land border. The visit was held within the framework of the EU funded project SURCAP (“Strengthening the surveillance capacity on the green and blue border between Belarus and Ukraine”). In course of the visit the participants had an opportunity to receive first-hand information on the current situation at this border, challenges faced and countermeasures undertaken by the Greek and Turkish police and the military.
Before 2012 this 100km land and river border between the two states was the most popular transit route for irregular migrants heading from Turkey into Greece and further westwards. Up to 95% of all irregular migrants have penetrated into the EU through this particular strip of land. However, last year the Greek authorities erected a 12km long fence to protect the land border, as well as carried out a number of border guard operations coordinated by FRONTEX, such as “Posseidon” and the “Shield”. As a result the flow of irregular migrants has almost stopped and redirected towards the sea border between the two states and numerous Greek islands located in the area.
The senior and mid-level officials from the border agencies of Belarus and Ukraine paid an onsite visit to the first Greek reception facility for migrants in Orestiada, met with the international forces of FRONTEX in Athens and Aleksandroupolis, received an insight into the Greek-Turkish cooperation in border control and combating irregular migration, learned about the countries’ experience in fighting cross-border crime, such as smuggling of goods and persons, human trafficking, etc, as well as familiarized themselves with the use of advanced technologies in border surveillance operation in both countries. Apart from meetings on the Greek side of the border the joint delegation had a separate meeting on the Turkish territory with representatives of the Turkish Army, responsible for controlling the border with the EU.