(EurActiv) — The top French official responsible for immigration said the EU should build a wall along the 130-kilometre Greek-Turkish border, comparing it to the one between the USA and Mexico.
Arno Klarsfeld, recently appointed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to head the Office for Immigration and Integration, said in a televised interview that the proposed wall was a matter of “common sense”.
The official appears to bring other ideas recently developed by Sarkozy, who has repeatedly called the Greek-Turkish border “a sieve”. According to analysts, Sarkozy has turned to anti-immigration rhetoric in his campaign against Socialist challenger François Hollande in the 22 April first-round election that is likely to propel the two men to a run-off on 6 May.
Klarsfeld further argued that since there was “a door half-open” on Greece’s frontier with Turkey, it should be closed to allow EU citizens living in relative prosperity to decide for themselves who comes on their territory.
Asked to provide details on what the wall should look like, he said: “A wall is made of wire, with barbed wire. A wall just as in Rome, where there was a wall [thanks to which] peace lasted four centuries.”
Klarsfeld apparently was referring to the Aurelian walls, built between 271 and 275 AD in the capital of the Roman Empire by emperors Aurelian and Probus as a reaction to the barbarian invasion of 270.
The Greek-Turkish border that spans 130 kilometres is safe except for an area of around 20 kilometres near Orestiada and the Turkish city of Edirne, at the place where the river Evros (in Greek, Meriç in Turkish, Maritsa in Bulgarian) crosses the border.
Greek authorities recently expressed the wish to build a fence with EU money at this location. However, the EU Commission rejected the idea, considering that walls and fences were “temporary measures” for which the EU taxpayers’ money should not be spent.
It remains unclear if cash-strapped Greece has the means to erect such a barrier.
Recently the Commission said that the number of migrants crossing the Greek-Turkish border had decreased from 2,000 to 500 a week.
The problematic section of the Greek-Turkish border would probably not get such attention if Greece took proper care of asylum seekers. However, courts consider that Greece is not complying with minimum standards on the treatment of asylum seekers, and as a result, illegal immigrants who reach further West cannot be sent back to the country of entry on EU territory, as EU legislation provides for.
Speaking in the European Parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-chair of the Green-EFA group, said it made more sense for the EU to improve relations with Turkey, so that Ankara would take better care of its borders.
A 8.4-kilometre border fence with 3-metre-high walls and barbed wire was erected at the border of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta with Morocco by Spanish the authorities in 1993, without EU funding.