More help sought for refugees

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom indicated on Monday that Greek authorities were doing a good job in dealing with undocumented immigrants, despite the significant pressures on the country due to its position on the EU?s southeastern flank, but called for better protection of migrants fleeing war and persecution.

Malmstrom was in Greece inspecting three reception centers for migrants in the northern prefecture of Rhodope, together with Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias and the head of the Commission?s representation in Greece, Panayiotis Karvounis.

?We came to see from up close how we can help Greek authorities in their efforts to restrict illegal immigration and to improve the reception conditions of these people while their fate is being decided,? Malmstrom said, adding that Greek authorities should improve their service for processing the asylum applications of migrants meriting refugee status.

?Over 300 million euros from four major European funds are available to Greece for the guarding of its border, asylum processing, holding conditions and repatriation of migrants,? Karvounis said.

Malmstrom also stressed that the contribution of Turkish authorities was the ?key? for comprehensively dealing with problem of illegal immigration.

She added that negotiations are under way for a new European immigration policy to replace the Dublin II Regulation, though she said that Dublin III is unlikely to contain measures that will significantly alleviate Greece?s burden in the battle against illegal migration. Under the Dublin II rules, undocumented immigrants must lodge asylum applications with authorities in the first country of entry, which more often than not is Greece.

Meanwhile police said that a two-month crackdown along the Turkish land border has led to a sharp drop in illegal immigration. Police said that 1,337 migrants were detained at the border between August 4 and October 6 as compared to 14,724 during the same period last year.

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