Evros fence ?ready in weeks?

A fence along the Greek-Turkish border, designed to prevent illegal immigration through the northern region of Evros, will be up and fully operational by the end of the month, authorities have told Kathimerini.

More than half of the planned 12.5-kilometer fence has already been constructed and the remainder will be in place before November, according to an official at the border crossing, which already has seen a sharp drop in illegal arrivals due to a joint crackdown by Greek police and officers of the European Union?s border monitoring agency Frontex.

Plans for the 3-meter-high, barbed-wire-topped fence were scorned earlier this year by a European Commission official as ?pointless,? but European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom, who toured the border region and visited four migrant reception centers last week, refrained from similar criticism. Malmstrom urged authorities to improve conditions at reception centers on the islands of the Aegean which have seen a surge in illegal arrivals following the crackdown at the land border. She also prodded Greek authorities to upgrade a lax system for processing asylum claims by migrants meriting international protection.

The Swedish commissioner, who held talks with Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras during her visit, said that she would push for an increase in the European Union?s contribution to funding for Greece?s immigration crackdown, from 75 percent to 95 percent of the budget. She noted however that much of the EU funding being released to Greece for curbing illegal immigration had not been used.

Greek authorities last week continued to deport dozens of undocumented migrants, many of whom have reportedly asked to be returned to their homelands after failing to find work in crisis-hit Greece. On Wednesday, a charter flight deported 68 Pakistanis, 15 of whom had been in detention and the remainder of whom had applied to be repatriated.