Greece 'seriously neglected' Schengen border duties, Commission finds

TAGS: Migration, EU

The EU executive said on Wednesday that Greece has "seriously neglected" its frontier duties to Europe's free-travel Schengen zone and could be subject to new border controls by other members if it fails to remedy the problems within three months.

"The draft report concludes that Greece seriously neglected its obligations and that there are serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border control that must be overcome ... by the Greek authorities," European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told a news briefing.

The draft Schengen evaluation report on Greece was based on unannounced site visits to the Greek-Turkish land border as well as to the islands of Chios and Samos carried out from 10 to 13 November 2015. Experts looked at the presence of police and coast guard personnel on the inspected sites, the efficiency of the identification and registration process, sea border surveillance and cooperation with neighbouring countries.

According to the report “there is no effective identification and registration of irregular migrants and... fingerprints are not being systematically entered into the system and travel documents are not being systematically checked for the authenticity or against crucial security databases, such as SIS, Interpol and national databases.”

"The report shows that there are serious deficiencies in the management of the external border in Greece," Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

"We know that in the meantime Greece has started undertaking efforts towards rectifying and complying with the Schengen rules. Substantial improvements are needed to ensure the proper reception, registration, relocation or return of migrants in order to bring Schengen functioning back to normal, without internal border controls. This is our ultimate common goal," Avramopoulos said.

The Commission conclusion, discussed by commissioners at their weekly meeting on Wednesday morning, could be a key step toward extending temporary border controls introduced by some Schengen members on the area's internal borders for up to two years. [Combined reports]