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Cablegate: Georgian Illegal Immigrants Killed by Landminies On

VZCZCXRO2176
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIK #0068 2831253
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091253Z OCT 08
FM AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0378
INFO RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS PRIORITY 0277
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHIK/AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI 0420

UNCLAS THESSALONIKI 000068

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PARM PREF PREL PGOV GR TU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIAN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS KILLED BY LANDMINIES ON
GREEK-TURKISH BORDER

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Four illegal immigrants from Georgia lost
their lives on September 26, after accidentally entering a
minefield. The minefield was fenced-off and had warning signs
in three languages. Police maintain that smugglers often
suggest the crossing of the minefield to their charges, as "the
shortest way." Since 1994, at least 90 people have been killed
by mines in the same area. Although mine disposal is steadily
progressing in Greece, more than 7,000 mines are still estimated
by the authorities to be in place. The incident underscores the
need for continued demining and improved cross-border
cooperation against illegal immigration. END SUMMARY.

SMUGGLERS MISLEAD ILLEGALS TO CROSS MINEFIELD

2. (SBU) On Friday September 26, four illegal immigrants from
Georgia aged 20 to 25, attempted to enter Greece through the
border with Turkey. They mistakenly entered a minefield in the
town of North Vissa in the Prefecture of Evros and were killed
while crossing it. Travel documents that were retrieved from
two of the bodies, confirmed the victims were Georgian citizens.
The authorities assume that the victims were transported to
that point by Turkish smugglers, who then deserted them. Police
told post that illegal immigrants are often misled by their
smugglers into entering minefields, suggesting them as the
shortest routes, while failing to inform the victims of the
danger. Illegal immigrants who have been injured in similar
incidents in the past have testified to being similarly misled.
According to police, the minefield where the incident took place
is obstructed by barbed-wire fencing over two meters high.
There are also warning signs in Greek, Turkish and English. The
signs also feature a skull and bones. Police speculate that
smugglers convinced their clients to ignore the barbed wire
fencing and signs.

RISE IN ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION LEADS TO MORE VICTIMS

3. (SBU) Police informed post that they have lately observed
increased numbers of Georgians trying to enter Greece illegally,
a fact that they attribute to the recent hostilities in the
region of South Ossetia. In response, there has been an
increase in the number of patrols carried out by border police,
as well as the introduction of joint patrols with regular Greek
police. Around 90 people - mostly illegal immigrants but also,
military personnel- have lost their lives and another 150 have
been injured from landmines in the last 15 years.

DEMINING AHEAD OF 2014 DEADLINE, BUT MORE WORK AHEAD

4. (SBU) Greece is among the signatories of the Mine Ban Treaty
of Ottawa (December 1997). Under the Treaty, Greece is obliged
to remove all mines from its territory by March 1, 2014. Of the
58 minefields in the border region of Evros, 38 have been
cleared so far by the Greek Army's Land Minefield Clearing
Battalion, prompting the Greek representatives to the last
(2007) annual conference of the member states of the Treaty, to
predict completion of the project "well before the agreed
deadline." Senior police and military officials familiar with
the demining operations informed post after the September 26
incident that Greece remains well ahead of schedule to complete
demining work before 2014. Some media have expressed skepticism
that Greece will meet the deadline. The remaining minefields
contain around 7,000 mines.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: Active landmines will remain a serious danger
to illegal immigrants for at least the next two to three years
along the Greek/Turkish border, accentuated by the expected
growth of illegal immigration, including due to developments in
the Caucasus. The recent casualties underscore the importance
of continued demining and improved cross-border cooperation to
combat illegal immigration. Post will continue to monitor
demining progress and undertake additional initiatives aimed at
promoting cooperation between law enforcement forces of Greece,
Turkey and neighboring states. END COMMENT

YEE

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