NEWS

Frontex set to extend Evros stay

Frontex, the European Union?s external borders agency, looks set to give the green light for its team of guards to remain on Greece?s northeastern frontier with Turkey on a permanent basis, it emerged on Thursday.

Sources in Brussels suggested that a team of some 200 border guards from various European Union countries will be stationed in Evros on a permanent basis to help Greek authorities patrol one of the main points of entry for illegal immigrants not just into Greece but into the European Union.

Greek authorities had appealed to 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.

Members of the Frontex force first arrived in Evros last October. At that time, the EU border guards were making an average of 245 arrests a day but this figure fell to just under 100 last month. This was regarded as a sign of the team?s success in deterring undocumented immigrants and their traffickers from trying to cross into Greece at the Evros border.

The arrival of Frontex officers, and the fact that they are likely to remain in Greece, seems to suggest that Athens has managed to get across to EU officials the message that it needs help to patrol its borders, which have become the main entry point for illegal immigrants seeking to enter the European Union.

Greece argues that since the vast majority of these migrants are attempting to make it to other member states, the EU has an interest in helping to stem the flow.

A Frontex report in January described the situation at the Greek-Turkish border as ?unprecedented? and called for Turkey to assume more responsibility as a key transit country for migrants.

Frontex noted in its report that illegal migration flows into Greece last year broke all previous European records. According to Frontex statistics, 31,000 would-be migrants were detained at the Greek-Turkish border between January and September of 2010.

The government has proposed building a 12.5-kilometer fence in Evros to deter illegal immigrants but the plan has met with opposition from leftists and human rights organizations, including the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).