In the last few days and also from time to time, we hear about the approach or the grounding of sailing boats that transport illegal immigrants to Kythira. These are large boats that carry dozens of people and the arrival of three such boats in the last twenty-four hours on the island brought about 250 illegal immigrants. The impression is created that no matter how much the surveillance measures are intensified by the Coast Guard – Hellenic Coast Guard (LS-ELAKT) at the border with Turkey, the efforts are “lost” since the smugglers are able to easily transfer their human cargo to the “back” door” of the country.
The situation is unfair to the staff of LS-ELAKT, who struggle every day to carry out their mission, as the numerical data for the “back door” create a strong impression. Public opinion is left with the impression that LS-ELAKT is doing something wrong. Corps officers who serve in other areas are left with the impression that their colleagues in other islands do not do as good a job as them.
In other words, an operational weakness is identified, that of better surveillance of the seas east-southeast of Rhodes, which allow “travels” of smugglers’ boats from Turkey, south of Crete, to Kythira.
The image of increased measures with impossibility of surveillance in the waters “just outside” the perimeter of the Greek islands, corresponds to an activity that is exhausted in a fleet of watercraft. However, aerial surveillance support has been a reality for Armed Forces and Security Forces for years. The LS-ELAKT appears not to have been interested in strengthening its means and with regular UAVs which are now organic means of patrol boats, allowing the effective surveillance of a vast area around a watercraft, without unnecessary costs and crew efforts.
Turkey has taken advantage of the technological progress of UAVs to “seal” its porous borders with Iraq and Syria against Kurdish rebels, but Greece shows an inability to effectively monitor with UAVs the maritime border with Turkey and the nearby external but national waters, from the threat of Turkish smuggling rings.