Minister visits EU guards in Evros

Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis yesterday officially welcomed a contingent of 175 border guards from the European Union’s border monitoring agency, Frontex, to the Greek-Turkish border yesterday, saying that their presence in Evros demonstrated EU solidarity with Greece in the difficult task of curbing a burgeoning influx of illegal immigrants. Papoutsis was accompanied by European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, Frontex’s executive director, Ilkka Laitinen, and Eric Besson, the immigration minister of France, which has contributed a large number of the border guards to the force. «This is a clear demonstration of the EU’s solidarity and strong political will to bolster and protect our common borders,» Papoutsis said. The minister added that Greece was now actively seeking Turkey’s cooperation in curbing illegal immigration via the land border separating the two countries. «We hope that negotiations between Turkey and the EU for the repatriation of migrants are completed soon,» Papoutsis said. Malmstrom stressed that Brussels would do what it can. «We are here to help Greece tackle this difficult situation,» she said, adding that talks with Ankara were going well. Besson, the French minister, stressed that the problem of illegal immigration is one that affects the entire bloc. «Europe must help us to find solutions,» he said. The bulk of the Frontex operation will be focused on curbing the influx of migrants through the 12-kilometer strait between the small border towns of Nea Vyssa and Orestiada. Some 32,000 would-be migrants are believed to have crossed into Greece illegally this year via this passage.