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21st Jan 2021

Greece will not get extra Frontex staff until next week

  • The Greek-Turkey land border shares a river (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

Greece will likely have to wait until next week before receiving any extra manpower and equipment from the EU's border agency, Frontex.

"I think it may be sometime next week before we have people on the ground," a spokesperson from the Warsaw-based agency told EUobserver on Wednesday (4 March).

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The deployment is part of a rapid border intervention operation requested by Greece this week after thousands of migrants and refugees appeared on their land border with Turkey.

The European Commission had announced the agency would send in an extra 100 officers, adding to 530 already on the ground.

An offshore vessel, six coastal vessels, two helicopters, one aircraft, three thermal vision vehicles are also on order.

But Frontex says it is still working out the details and commitments from EU member states as well as the kind of officers that will be deployed.

An EU diplomatic source said in fact more could be sent to Greece.

"Some of this support has to be swifter and some of the support has to be more with more resources and it has to be increased," she said.

"It is not a given what Frontex is doing. What you are hearing is the first figures," she added.

Finland had earlier said they are sending "some people" to Frontex.

They had also announced a deployment of personnel to the EU's police agency Europol and another dealing with asylum known as the European Asylum Support Office (Easo).

France said they have a dozen experts available but are willing to provide more support, if needed.

"We will adapt [contribution to Frontex] relative to Greek demands," said France's minister of interior, Christophe Castaner.

It came amid a meeting of interior ministers in Brussels seeking ways to shore up more and swifter help for Greece.

It also comes amid reports Greece is using rubber bullets against refugees and asylum seekers, with a European Commission that is using war terminology to describe the border tensions.

"As we have shown yesterday, when Europe is tested, we are able to prove that we can hold the line and that our unity will prevail," European Commission's vice-president for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, had told reporters.

Similar comments were used by Davor Bozinovic, Croatia's minister of interior, who was speaking on behalf of the European Union.

"Illegal crossings will not be tolerated by the European Union," he said.

The European Council for Refugees and Exiles, Ecre, pointed out it is not illegal to cross borders to seek international protection.

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