Greece seeks to tighten its borders

Greek authorities have appealed to the European Union’s border monitoring agency Frontex to bolster its presence at the country’s land and sea borders with the aim of averting a possible influx of immigrants from Egypt and other North African countries, sources told Kathimerini on Monday.

Unofficially, Frontex has responded positively to the government’s request, the sources said.

Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis chaired a meeting of security chiefs early on Monday to thrash out a strategy for dealing with a possible spike in the number of undocumented immigrants trying to enter Greece after anti-government protest in Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. «There is no major threat at present but it is our duty to be prepared,» Papoutsis said.

For the moment, the Greek government faces a more pressing, though less complex, logistical challenge – that of transferring around 200 members of the Greek community in Egypt safely to Athens. The government on Monday put three C-130 transport aircraft on standby to evacuate any Greeks who want to flee Egypt, which has descended into chaos amid vehement protests against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. The three aircraft are scheduled to land in Athens by Monday afternoon.

The mission is being overseen by Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis who is to board one of the three planes destined for Alexandria. The ministry, in association with local embassy and consular officials, has drawn up a list of Greeks who want to board the flights to Athens. The aim of the list is to ensure that the seats on those flights are not taken by non-Greeks wanting to flee the strife-torn country.

There had been no request for mass evacuations of Greeks from the capital of Cairo by late Monday although a Greek Embassy official was dispatched to Cairo’s international airport to help get 17 Greek tourists onto flights to Athens.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Monday that the evacuation flights would only be made if the conditions would allow. «Safety has to be a priority,» he told Skai.

Greeks in Egypt are being advised to stay at home until the unrest has died down and to remain in touch with the embassy, which has also asked the local police to protect Greek institutes from damage or looting. As of late Monday, there had been no reports of any Greeks being injured or killed in clashes that have left dozens of people dead.