Frontex patrols start at border

A team of more than 100 border guards from the European Union’s border monitoring agency, Frontex, started work at the Greek-Turkish border yesterday and, according to authorities, managed to curb the influx of illegal immigrants by 25 percent. The initial patrols by the Frontex team – most of whom are to be stationed at the narrow crossing between Nea Vyssa and Orestiada – were supposed to be reconnaissance exercises. But the mixed patrols of Frontex guards and Greek border police managed to arrest 115 illegal immigrants in just a few hours. Today Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis is due to visit the border town of Orestiada to welcome the Frontex contingent, which is to be boosted by at least another 100 guards in the coming weeks. Papoutsis is to launch the Frontex initiative during a ceremony that is to be attended by European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Frontex’s executive director, Ilkka Laitinen, as well as Eric Besson, the immigration minister of France, which has contributed a large number of the border guards. A Greek police source told Kathimerini yesterday that the presence of the EU’s border agency in Greece demonstrated the union’s support for the country’s efforts to curb illegal immigration. «The presence of the European border guards in Greece also has clear symbolism and is a type of indirect pressure on Turkey to honor its agreements and take back would-be migrants crossing illegally into Greece,» the source said.