New plan for migrants

Ministers met yesterday to discuss the growing number of illegal immigrants arriving in the country and agreed on a three-step action plan to tackle the problem. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis all met yesterday and decided on steps to better protect the country’s borders. The plan will initially involve improving coordination efforts between ministries and making more efficient use of national resources, such as the armed forces. The next step is seen as calling for financial support from the European Union and closer cooperation with member states. Greece is often the first steppingstone for illegal immigrants, mostly from different Asian and Middle Eastern nations, making their way into the EU. «The efficient handling of illegal immigrants concerns the European Union and, of course, Greece, whose borders are also the borders of a Schengen country and for the most part are also the external borders of the EU,» said Giorgos Koumoutsakos, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. According to official figures, around 300 illegal immigrants attempt to enter the country every day – a number expected to grow in coming months. Most of the human-trafficking activity comes from the land and sea borders with Turkey. Greece called on its eastern neighbor to better protect its national frontiers and accused it of failing to respect international agreements on the issue. The Turkish military accused Greece last week of dumping boatloads of illegal immigrants in Turkish waters, exposing thousands of them to «human drama» that included the risk of death. Koumoutsakos said international cooperation efforts need to address the essential problem and be supported by national action plans. «Insufficient or negligible national policies not only fail, but also encourage illegal immigrants, especially toward neighboring states,» said Koumoutsakos.