EU commissioner to visit Greece to support border-control efforts
The European Union's top migration official began a two-day visit to Greece on Thursday to support the country's struggle with securing its border with Turkey and improve reception facilities for asylum-seekers, officials said in Brussels, dpa reported.
Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom's move came in the wake of last week's unprecedented decision by the EU's border agency, Frontex, to send a team of 175 border-control specialists to help Greek authorities.
The mission was deployed on November 2, and is expected to last for two months. Efforts are expected to focus on policing a previously unguarded 12-kilometer river border between the towns of Nea Vyssa and Orestiada.
Malmstrom's spokesman Michele Cercone said the presence of EU guards "will have a deterrent impact, especially on (human) traffickers and smugglers."
Greek daily Kathimerini reported Thursday that over 30,000 migrants are estimated to have entered the EU through the narrow river stretch.
Most come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa, EU officials believe.
They add that more people are trying to enter the EU through Greece because a previously used route from Libya to Italy was closed off last year by a controversial bilateral agreement, which allows Italian vessels to push back migrants' boats caught at sea.
The situation led the Greek government earlier this month to appeal for Frontex's help