EU vows to help with immigration

The European Commission intends to exert pressure on Turkey to honor a bilateral pact with Greece for the repatriation of illegal immigrants and to boost funding for Greek efforts to guard the EC’s southeastern flank but Athens must improve its system for processing asylum applications which is currently «unacceptable,» the EC’s Vice President Jacques Barrot said yesterday. Following talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Barrot stressed the importance of «all member states showing solidarity toward countries of Southern Europe who are facing problems» due to their location on the European Union’s external border. But, in a joint press conference with Pavlopoulos, Barrot stated several times that Brussels was unhappy with the inefficiency of the system for processing asylum applications submitted by migrants, remarking, «We want a change to the procedure of examination [of applications] with the involvement of specialist professionals.» In an interview with Kathimerini, Barrot expressed particular concern about vulnerable groups of migrants such as unaccompanied minors and women, for whom «special facilities should be set up.» The commissioner conceded that Greece could be justified to a certain extent due to the «extreme shock» it suffered from a burgeoning influx of migrants that spiked abruptly after 2006. Barrot also told Kathimerini that Brussels would push Ankara to honor its obligations and «stop the departure of irregular immigrants from its territory and into Greece.» The commissioner said the EC would also help Ankara strike up repatriation pacts with migrants’ countries of origin. According to sources, a repatriation pact between Greece and Pakistan is expected to have been signed by October.