NEWS

Commission pledges border guards, aid to Greece to tackle migrant surge

YANNIS PALAIOLOGOS

TAGS: EU, Migration

The European Commission presented on Wednesday a six-point action plan to support Greece for border policing, that includes financial aid and beefing up Frontex patrols in the Aegean and Evros, the northeastern border with Turkey.

More than 10,000 migrants have been trying to breach the Greek border with Turkey after Ankara said last Thursday it would no longer try to halt illegal migration flows to Europe.

“Greece faces an incredibly challenging situation, one that is completely unprecedented and this difficult task cannot fall on Greece alone. It is the responsibility of the whole of Europe,” Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas said in a joint press conference with EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson in Brussels.

Presenting the plan, Schinas said Frontex would launch two rapid border operations both on the land and sea border, that will include an additional 100 border guards and equipment.

Frontex, the EU’s border control agency, is also preparing the deployment of one offshore patrol vessel, six coastal patrol vessels, two helicopters, one aircraft and three thermo-vision vehicles.

Schinas said the Commission has also asked Frontex to coordinate a new return program for the quick return of “persons without the right to stay” to their countries of origin from Greece, making use of Frontex's new mandate on returns.

The EU will provide immediate financial assistance of 350 million euros to support increased reception capacity on the five Greek islands receiving the bulk of migrants, voluntary returns of migrants, and all the infrastructure needed to carry out screening procedures for health and security on the islands.

The Commission will in addition propose an amended budget to make available a further 350 million euros, if needed.

On Greece's request the Commission also launched the civil protection mechanism through which Greece can receive additional medical staff and equipment, blankets and tents, Schinas added.

At the same time, the EU agency for refugees, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), will accelerate the deployment of an additional number of around 160 case workers in Greece to support the process of asylum applications.

The Commissioner also said the EU aims to strengthen regional cooperation by developing a coordinating mechanism with countries in the Western Balkan countries on migration.

The plan will be introduced before the extraordinary meeting of the Justice and Home Office Ministers who will meet later on Wednesday. 

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