Border crackdown on migrants

Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis yesterday heralded a major border crackdown aimed at significantly curbing the influx of undocumented immigrants into the country, noting that the majority of would-be migrants are trying to access the European Union from Turkey via Greece. «Seventy-five percent of the arrests for illegal entry from the EU’s sea borders this year took place in the Aegean,» Chrysochoidis said following talks with the visiting executive director of Frontex, Ilkka Laitinen. The minister said that stepped-up inspections at the country’s ports and airports had led to a sharp increase in arrests of undocumented migrants. He added that more Frontex officials would be employed to help determine migrants’ countries of origin and determine whether they should be deported or given temporary accommodation while their asylum applications are processed. Chrysochoidis heralded the creation of a «model asylum system,» involving experts from the United Nations refugee agency and other bodies, «to ensure that all those entitled to asylum get it.» Laitinen said that Greece would «remain of central interest to Frontex in 2010,» noting that the largest border-monitoring operation the agency was planning for next year «is to take place in the eastern Aegean.» The Frontex chief pledged an increase in the number of vessels and aircraft that the agency will dispatch to Greece for patrols and stressed that more Frontex experts would also be made available. «Poseidon continues to be our most important operation,» Laitinen said, using the code name for the joint initiative involving the Greek coast guard and Frontex in the Aegean. The agency’s chief said that curbing the influx of migrants would not be effective on its own. «We must gather more information about the modus operandi of smuggling rings,» he said, noting that Frontex would seek the cooperation of Turkey on this matter. Athens complains that its efforts to curb illegal immigration are being thwarted by the failure of Turkish authorities to honor a bilateral pact for the repatriation of migrants.

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