GREECE has announced plans to build a wall along its 128-mile land border with Turkey to keep out illegal immigrants.
Christos Papoutsis, a Greek interior minister, insisted the wall was necessary after Brussels intervened last year to prevent an immigration crisis by sending in an elite task force of border guards to protect the frontier between Greece and Turkey. He compared the planned barrier to the 650-mile fence along sections of the United-States-Mexico border.
"The Greek public has reached its limit in taking in illegal immigrants. We are absolutely determined on this issue. Greece can't take it any more," he said yesterday.
Critics said the planned wall would be viewed as a symbol of widespread opposition, led by France, Germany and Greece, to Turkish EU membership and an emblem of a new Christian-Muslim divide.
"Putting up fences would not be helpful at a time when it is more important to build bridges," said a diplomat.
The first stage in the Greek plan is a proposed 10ft high, eight-mile long trial wall by a weak entry point on the Turkish border, near the town of Orestidada, that was overwhelmed by immigrants last October.
Arrests of illegal immigrants entering Greece from Turkey increased five-fold, to 31,219, in the first nine months of 2010, the only EU land border to show a rise. Frontex, the EU's border agency, has estimated that the Greek-Turkey border is responsible for up to 90pc of illegal immigration.
Two weeks ago, the European Commission said it would extend until March the deployment of 175 border guards and criticised Greece for conditions in its detention centres.
"These measures could just be short-term when Greece, in particular, needs to reform in order to better manage their borders," said a Commission official. (© Daily Telegraph, London)