The European Union border agency Frontex has provided the Greek coast guard with a crewless blimp to monitor illegal crossings in the Aegean Sea.
The blimp started to fly over the Greek island of Samos on July 30. The Greek island is a major arrival point for migrants who travel by sea in small smuggling boats to reach Europe as it is just across the Turkish resort town of Kuşadası.
The project will last 28 days, during which the airship will fly continuously 24 hours a day. Greece’s merchant marine ministry said the 35-meter airship can fly as high as 1,000 meters.
A ministry statement issued on July 29 said the blimp has been equipped with radar and a thermal camera and is able to provide real-time, 24-hour monitoring of the surrounding sea.
Not only will the blimp help officials tackle the illegal trafficking of migrants but also narcotics and any other criminal activity.
In a statement, Greek officials said that the Greek Coast Guard has become the first EU Member State coast guard to use a zeppelin to police a maritime region and tackle cross-border crime.
If the project is found to be successful, more airships will be deployed over other Greek islands.
The Greek Deputy Minister of Migration, Yorgos Kumutsakos, said in a statement to the private television station, ANT1, that the zeppelin will allow authorities to detect ships that try to reach Greece when they leave Turkey, and thereby to inform the Turkish authorities, who will approach the vessel in question.
The Greek minister said that “there are no hot returns.”
“Everything will be done in accordance with international law,” he said.
Hurriyet Daily News