Greek-Spanish bid to curb migrants

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Zapatero yesterday issued a joint appeal for tighter border controls and closer cooperation between the European Union and African and Asian states to curb a relentless influx of illegal immigrants that has placed a particularly heavy burden on Mediterranean countries. «Tackling illegal immigration demands solidarity and common action from within the EU,» Karamanlis said following his talks with Zapatero in Madrid before boarding a flight to Rome, where he is due to meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi today for talks on the same subject. Yesterday both Karamanlis and Zapatero stressed the importance of boosting the EU border control agency Frontex to stem the tide of undocumented visitors. «The need to strengthen border controls is clear and for that Frontex is essential,» Zapatero said. Karamanlis grasped the opportunity to reiterate Greece’s desire for the creation of a joint European coast guard and to prod EU candidate state Turkey to cooperate by honoring a bilateral pact for the repatriation of migrants signed by Athens and Ankara in 2001. «Turkey must realize that it has to cooperate more closely, more constructively and more effectively with the EU and with Greece,» Karamanlis said. He and Zapatero stressed the need for closer ties to be forged between the EU and the migrants’ countries of origin, chiefly in Africa and Asia. Meanwhile in Athens Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed that any crackdown on illegal immigration should not be prejudicial to migrants fleeing war zones. «The need for policing our national borders must be balanced against the need to provide asylum to refugees who have been uprooted from their homes,» Bakoyannis told a conference organized by the Greek office of the United Nations refugee agency.