NEWS

EU offers help to detect migrants

Greece is getting high-tech assistance from the European Union border agency Frontex to track illegal immigrants crossing into its territory from Turkey. It was revealed yesterday that Frontex officers are helping to train Greek border guards while also providing them with the latest technology to detect migrants hiding in trucks. Frontex has sent 40 officers from 20 countries to work with 165 Greek border guards as part of an eight-day exercise. They are using equipment that detects heartbeats and carbon dioxide as well as heat cameras to scan the vehicles that pass through the Evros border post. Surveillance aircraft and helicopters are also being used to monitor the area. Twelve migrants were reportedly detained during yesterday’s operations. «This border region is the hottest area of illegal immigration in Europe,» Gil Arias, Frontex’s deputy executive director, told The Associated Press. Greece has been asking the EU for help for some time in dealing with the influx of illegal immigrants, which has been rising steadily over the last few years. Almost 150,000 people were arrested trying to enter Greece illegally last year, up by 30 percent on the previous year. More than 2,200 suspected traffickers were apprehended. The presence of the Frontex officers came as residents and local officials in the Evros region of northeastern Greece, including Prefect Nikos Zambounidis, called for more measures to be taken to prevent illegal immigrants reaching Greece. The prefecture has begun efforts to build a new reception center on a 2-hectare site to ease the overcrowding at the existing center, where conditions have been slammed by the Council of Europe and the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR. Zambounidis said that he is struggling to find funding for the project. On Monday, following a visit to the port of Patras, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou accused the government’s policy on illegal immigration of being a «complete failure.»