NEWS

EC to send up to 200 guards to Evros

The European Union said yesterday that up to 200 guards will be dispatched by the its border monitoring agency, Frontex, to help Greece patrol its frontier with Turkey in the northern region of Evros. «Up to 200 border guards can be mobilized,» Annemie Turtelboom, the acting Interior Minister of Belgium, which holds the Union’s rotating presidency, said in Brussels. She added that a team of Frontex officials were currently drawing up an «operational plan» following a visit to Evros where they assessed the situation and the needs of Greek authorities. It will be the first time since the agency was formed in 2007 that Frontex guards will be deployed on the border of a European Union member state. The guards, members of the Rapid Border Intervention Team, are to take their orders from Greek authorities. The help comes after Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis appealed last week to Brussels to immediately dispatch «rapid intervention teams» to Evros, noting that the daily influx of migrants was becoming unmanageable, with some 350 people trying to breach the border each day. Responding to Papoutsis, EU Internal Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom conceded that the situation in Evros «is increasingly worrying.» «The flows of people crossing the border irregularly have reached alarming proportions and Greece is manifestly not able to face this situation alone,» Malmstrom said, adding that she was particularly concerned about «the humanitarian situation.» In a related development, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) expressed concern about the possible repercussions of the border crackdown on migrants meriting refugee status. In a statement, the UNHCR said it recognized the need for control of the EU’s external border but warned that «asylum needs should not be compromised.»