The European Union’s border protection agency on Friday confirmed it had received a request the previous day from the Greek government for help in the Aegean managing the wave of refugee and migrant arrivals from Turkey.
“Greece asked Frontex yesterday to launch a Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT) mechanism on the Greek islands in the Aegean, where it continues to face massive migratory pressure,” the agency said in an announcement on Friday, adding that Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has five working days to evaluate the situation and decide whether to activate the mechanism.
If the mechanism is activated, Frontex explained, EU member states and Schengen associate countries would be obligated to provide border guards and equipment for the operation.
The semi state-run AMNA news agency, meanwhile, reported that over 1,700 refugees and migrants disembarked at the port of Piraeus near Athens on Friday from the islands of eastern Aegean. Ferry boats chartered by the government have been running regular routes from the islands to the mainland in a bid to relieve some of the pressure on the islands, where arrivals by boat from Turkey reach the hundreds on a daily basis.
The agency added that it also agreed with Greece on Thursday to expand its activities to the country’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which has been facing mounting pressure since Skopje barred entry to hundreds it deems “economic migrants” and ineligible for asylum.
Frontex said the deployment of additional officers to the area will begin next week, amid reports that more scuffles breaking out among migrants and refugees waiting to be registered and granted passage through FYROM as they make their way to northern Europe. Tension has increased at the crossing in the past few days as hundreds of Iranians, Kurds, Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals have been refused passage.
In October, Frontex called on member states to provide 775 border guards for its activities, with 600 to be deployed in Greece. Member states have so far offered 447 officers, the agency said on Friday.