NEWS

Frontex to stay at border until March

A 175-strong force of guards from the European Union?s border-monitoring agency Frontex is to remain stationed at the Greek-Turkish border until early March instead of departing now as scheduled, Frontex authorities announced yesterday.

The cooperation between the Frontex employees and the Greek police at the border has reduced the influx of would-be immigrants into Greece by 44 percent in just over a month, official figures showed yesterday. Still, Frontex and the Greek authorities have agreed that their continued cooperation could reduce illegal arrivals even further.

The members of Frontex?s Rapid Border Intervention Team (RABIT), mobilized in the northern region of Evros on November 5, are to remain there until March 3. Moreover, according to Ilkka Laitinen, the executive director of Frontex, the agency will maintain its presence in the region even after the RABIT team has been withdrawn. Laitinen stressed however that the problem of would-be migrants illegally entering Europe via Greece could not be solved by intensifying border patrols. ?Illegal immigration cannot be tackled effectively with short-term solutions,? he said.

Last week, Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis told Kathimerini that he is considering mobilizing the armed forces to boost the efforts of Frontex at the border. In an interview with Kathimerini, Papoutsis said that he and Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos were discussing the possibility of armed forces personnel joining Greek police and Frontex staff at the border. ?I am in constant contact and cooperation with Mr Venizelos, seeking the best solution to restore our country?s prestige in the eyes of the international community,? Papoutsis said. He added that the mobilization of Frontex guards in Evros early last month demonstrated practically that illegal immigration is ?a European problem which demands European initiative and support for Greece.?