Frontex team starts work in Evros

Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis is due in Evros, northern Greece, today to officially welcome a 220-strong team of guards that have been dispatched by the European Union’s border monitoring agency Frontex to help Greece curb a growing influx of illegal immigrants. Papoutsis is to launch the Frontex initiative during a ceremony that is also to be attended by Eric Besson, the immigration minister of France, which has contributed a large number of the border guards, as well as European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Frontex’s executive director, Ilkka Laitinen. A Greek police source told Kathimerini yesterday that the presence of these high-profile officials in Greece highlighted the significance of the project and the fact that illegal immigration is a European problem, not one to be tackled by Greece alone due to its presence at the bloc’s southeastern flank. «The European Union is here to contribute to solving the problem of illegal immigration that Greece has been struggling with,» the source said. Of the 220 guards being sent to Greece, 175 are to be stationed at the Greek-Turkish border. Most of them will focus on patrolling the 12-kilometer section of the border between the village of Nea Vyssa and the small town of Orestiada, which has become a particularly popular stretch for migrants trying to sneak over the border. More than 30,000 are believed to have crossed into Greece illegally through this narrow strait in recent months. The remaining 45 Frontex guards are to be mobilized along the remainder of the Greek-Turkish border. 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. In a related development, Greek police said yesterday that they would be recruiting 30 foreign-language teachers to train the border guards to speak Albanian, Arabic and Turkish.