Thursday

28th May 2020

Virus: Frontex tells officers to keep guarding Greek borders

  • 100 extra officers had been deployed to Greece, where they will now remain for an extra month (Photo: Frontex)

The EU's border agency Frontex has told its officers they must maintain border checks between Greece and Turkey in light of the pandemic.

In an internal staff email sent last week and seen by EUobserver, Frontex's executive director Fabrice Leggeri said they had a legal obligation to support Greece.

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Because of it, there will be "no reduction of deployment needs" for three of its missions along the Greek land and sea borders with Turkey, he said.

The missions include the so-called rapid border interventions where Frontex sent in an extra 100 officers to the land border, along with helicopters, boats and other surveillance equipment earlier this month.

The officers were deployed after Turkey in Febraury opened its borders, sending thousands of asylum seeker hopefuls towards Greece, in a frantic bid to wrestle political concessions from the EU.

Greece then announced it would suspend asylum applications, a move officially voted through the parliament on Thursday (26 March) in what critics say is a flagrant violation of international and EU law.

Frontex officers will also be required to stay on task for an additional month, noted Leggeri, to mitigate infections linked to travelling.

Those officers will also be working to send home migrants and rejected asylum seekers from Greece, described by Leggeri as a top priority.

Meanwhile, the agency is temporarily shelving operations at other border crossing points along Europe's land borders it considers less important.

This includes an "immediate suspension of all activities, considered as low priority, until further notice" for the joint-operation focal points air and sea and the joint-operation focal coordination points air and sea.

Officers at those missions are free to go home.

Operations in the Western Balkans, the Themis in the central Mediterranean and Indalo off Spain have also since been classified as a secondary priority.

Frontex was among the first EU agencies to have had a confirmed case of Covid-19, when one of its employees at its Warsaw headquarters tested positive.

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