Frontex to Send More Guards to Greece’s Border with Macedonia
The EU border agency Frontex said on Thursday that it will deploy additional guards at Greece’s border with Macedonia where migrants have been stranded for more than a week now.
The deployment of additional officers, who will assist with registration of migrants, will begin next week, Frontex said in a statement.
The decision was reached at the OSCE conference in Serbia’s capital of Belgrade just a day before EU interior ministers meet in Brussels on Friday to review efforts to stem migration flows.
Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki welcomed the decision, saying it will help defuse tensions at his country’s border with Greece.
Some 1,500 people, mostly from Pakistan, Iran and Morocco, have been stranded near the Greek border town of Idomeni for more than a week, demanding to cross into Macedonia en route to western and northern Europe.
Non-EU Macedonia has been allowing only people arriving from war zones such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq to cross at its Gevgelija checkpoint opposite Idomeni as those migrants are typically granted asylum in the EU. The Macedonian authorities consider people from other nationalities to be economic migrants and deny passage to them.
“It is crucial that all migrants entering the European Union are properly registered. Migrants at Greece’s northern border will be checked and those found not properly identified will be registered,” Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said in the statement.
The strengthening of Frontex’s existing operation on the Greek islands and assistance in the registration and fingerprinting of migrants at Greece’s land borders were among the conclusions of the October summit of leaders of the countries lying on the so-called Western Balkans route used by migrants to reach Western Europe.
Frontex currently has 195 officers on Greece’s Aegean islands most affected by migratory flows, identifying migrants and collecting intelligence about people smuggling networks.
Frontex also noted that EU states had so far provided it with only 447 of the additional 775 staff it asked for in October. Out of the total, 600 were to be deployed in Greece.
The Luxembourg minister who will chair Friday's meeting in Brussels has told Reuters that he opposed suggestions from some other EU member states that Greece be suspended from the bloc’s Schengen zone of passport-free travel for failing to secure its section of the EU's external border.
At the meeting, Luxembourg will present a paper proposing possible amendments to the Schengen rules and also suggestingto activate“a previously unused article of the Schengen treaty that would extend European governments' rights to impose border checks with each other for up to two years,” according to Reuters.
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