EU will not fund Evros fence

The European Union will not be funding the construction of a fence along the Greek-Turkish land border as it does not believe it will be an effective form of curbing illegal immigration, a top European official has said, meaning that Greece must find the funding from its dwindling coffers.

Responding to a question by Euro MP Giorgos Papanikolaou, who is affiliated with conservative New Democracy, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstroem said the bloc would not pay for the fence as it would not effectively discourage immigrants or smugglers who would simply seek alternative routes into the European Union, either via another section of Greece?s porous border with Turkey or through the border of another EU member state. Malmstroem reportedly said that the EU would be prepared to fund other measures if they are deemed to be an effective way of curbing illegal immigration into the bloc.

Greece had sought 4.9 million euros in EU funding for the construction of the fence, which was originally budgeted at 5.4 million euros.

On Wednesday the State Audit Council is expected to issue its final approval for the project whose budget is to be cut to under a million euros.

Last week, Deputy Citizens? Protection Minister Manolis Othonas had said that the fence would be completed in five months. Othonas made the comments following a visit to the site in Evros where the 12.5-kilometer fence is being built. The structure is to consist of two parallel fences, spanning just over 12 kilometers and topped with barbed wire.

Last month, the executive director of the EU?s border monitoring agency Frontex, Ilkka Laitinen, said that EU states which have been contributing to a Frontex operation in Evros with manpower and equipment are becoming reluctant to continue their efforts as Greek authorities have failed to set up new migrant detention centers as promised.

Some 36,000 undocumented immigrants were caught crossing into Greece via its land border with Turkey in the first nine months of the year, according to official figures. This compares to a total of just over 47,000 arrests during the whole of last year.