Frontex to boost patrols in Aegean to halt migrants

Frontex to boost patrols in Aegean to halt migrants

A joint action plan drafted by the Greek Police, the Hellenic Coast Guard and Frontex aims to boost patrols in the eastern Aegean in a bid to curb a dramatic influx of refugees and immigrants, Fabrice Leggeri, the executive director of the European Union’s border monitoring agency, has told Kathimerini.

The key goal of the European border guards will be to spot smuggling vessels heading toward Greece from neighboring Turkey before they enter Greek waters and to inform Turkish Coast Guard officials so the vessels can be returned. The Frontex officials to be dispatched to Greece are to conduct sea patrols but also land patrols on islands such as Lesvos and Kos that have borne the brunt of an intensified influx of migrants.

In an interview with Kathimerini, Leggeri said European Union member-states have appeared reluctant to contribute equipment, particularly technical equipment, that Greek authorities need to effectively deal with the migration crisis. He said the organization’s budget for operations in Greece has been tripled, to 18 million euros, adding that he was pushing to secure as much aid as possible for the country. The European Union “must show solidarity,” he said, noting that Greece, Italy and Hungary have been hit the hardest by the migration crisis, and to a lesser extent Spain.

A total of 340,000 refugees and immigrants have entered the European Union so far this year, he said, blaming the increase primarily on the war in Syria but also on a deteriorating security situation in Libya, which has discouraged migrants from taking that route.

This week, Greek Police and Hellenic Coast Guard officials are to meet with Frontex officials at the agency’s office in Piraeus to hammer out a strategy.

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