Greece spooked by Syrian refugees
02.08.12 @ 18:13
BRUSSELS - The surge of Syrian refugees into Turkey has spooked Greece into deploying 1,881 additional guards on its border.
"The deployment of the above border guards has begun today. They will be stationed there [in the Evros region, on the Greek-Turkish frontier] for two months and then they will be replaced by another 1,881 border guards," Greece's ministry of citizen protection told this website in an email on Thursday (2 August).
The Panhellenic Association of Border Guard Officers, a trade union, says some 600 border guards are already at the border and that the two-day notice to post the additional 1,881 officers is too short.
"In one night, we are called to abandon our homes and leave our families for two months without any preparation whatsoever and go to the border," a spokesperson of the trade union in Athens told this website.
Greece has just under 4,000 border control guards in total.
The guards are having to leave their other stations for Evros to help stem a flow of irregular migrants which, according to the Greek trade union, is financially benefitting Turkey while draining Greece of resources.
"Every person attempting to cross spends around 60€ to 100€ in Turkey," said the spokesperson.
The trade union also claims that Frontex, the EU border agency, is powerless to stop the migratory flow and fears the situation will get worse.
"The EU needs to change the Dublin regulation because our country has turned into a storage room for immigrants from all over the world," the spokesperson said, referring to an EU law which says that the country where any given migrant first enters the EU is responsible for handling their asylum claim.
The representative was unable to specify how many Syrian refugees have been detected or stopped by the Greek border guards so far.
For its part, the European Commission notes that Greece must "ensure effective access to the asylum procedure" for anybody whom it stops.
Turkey has a total of 44,038 registered refugees from Syria, with more arriving as the crisis intesnifies, according to the United Nations.
The Greek-Turkish border follows the Evros river for around 200km.
The river loops east into Turkey near the Orestiada border town, creating a 12.5-km-wide land-strip where in January some 2,800 migrants tried to cross. The vast majority came from Afghanistan.
Greece is currently erecting a fence topped with razor wire along the land-strip. Construction started in April and should be completed sometime in September.
Greek citizens' protection minister Nikos Dendias told reporters on 25 July that: "In addition to the fence, controls at the entry points will be absolutely intensified within the next period. We will do our best to combat the problem of illegal migration. Any effort within the country is condemned if the entry gates remain open. Our goal, thus, will be to seal them."
For its part, Frontex says it is monitoring the situation in Syria and delivering its assessment of the situation to border authorities in member states and to the European Commission
"Frontex is not involved in co-ordination, management of [the] additional 1,881 police officers that will be deployed to Evros region. The responsibility for border control lies with member states, other member states bring assistance coordinated by Frontex but it does not change the command and control chain that is in Greek hands," Frontex spokesperson Micha Parzyszek told this website in an email.
The agency said that more than 80 percent of the 715 Syrian refugees detected crossing into the EU in the first three months of 2012 occurred on the Greek/Turkish border.
Turkey's spokesperson for foreign affairs, Selcuk Unal, told EUobserver that some Syrian refugees are making their way towards Greece.
He added that Greece has not formally notified the Turkish authorities of the additional border guard deployment.
An informal meeting among EU interior ministers in Cyprus on 23 July 2012 backed an initiative to provide assistance in areas hosting people who are fleeing the conflict in Syria.
"Immediate humanitarian assistance is crucial for the region in the short term and the EU is already making a serious contribution here. We are closely monitoring the situation and developments and stand ready to consider additional actions in case the crisis expands further," said the European Commission in an email.