The Greek government wants to completely seal off the border with Turkey in the north-east of the country against migrants. The existing 35-kilometer border fence is to be extended by 80 kilometers, Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis told Skai on Sunday. This secures all those regions that could otherwise be passed on foot.

The background is the current high tensions between Athens and Ankara. The two NATO members argue about natural gas, sovereign territories and many other issues. Most recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis no longer existed for him, cutting off the conversation.

During a visit to Washington last week, Mitsotakis warned of increasing instability in the eastern Mediterranean. This should be considered when deciding on arms sales. Turkey has been trying to buy new fighter jets from the United States for a long time.

Erdogan said he doesn’t believe the United States bases its decisions on Mitsotakis’ statements. At the same time, however, he announced that he would terminate strategic talks with Athens. It was not until mid-March that the two countries decided, after the start of the Russian war against Ukraine, that they wanted to improve their heavily strained relations.

Now Athens fears that Erdogan could again use migrants as leverage, as he did in 2020 when he declared the border with Greece on the Evros river open and thousands of people made their way there. The number of attempted illegal entries had recently increased significantly. Since the beginning of the year alone, around 40,000 transfers have been prevented, said Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos on the same broadcaster on Sunday.