EU border agency to ramp up operations in Greece

Soldiers put back a section of a barbed wire fence near on the Greek-Macedonian border.
Soldiers put back a section of a barbed wire fence near on the Greek-Macedonian border.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's border agency Frontex will increase its presence in Greece at the end of the month after the two sides agreed on the need for a larger operation to handle migrants.

Frontex said in a statement on Friday (Dec 18) that it would launch Poseidon Rapid Intervention on Dec. 28, leading to an eventual deployment of 376 officers and interpreters, including experts in screening, debriefing, fingerprinting and forged documents.

The staff will be drawn from various EU member states and other members of the 26-nation Schengen Area, where internal border controls have been abolished.

Nearly 991,000 refugees and migrants have entered Europe by land and sea so far this year and the number is expected to reach 1 million in the coming days, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday.

Many of those feeling conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa have arrived via the Greek islands, via Turkey, and they are still pouring into Greece in their thousands daily.

Unlike the existing Joint Operation Poseidon Sea, EU member states will be obliged to send border guards and equipment unless they also face an exceptional situation similar to that of Greece.

The additional officers will help speed up registration and fingerprinting of migrants on the Greek islands and will also have a greater focus on security checks, by consulting national and European databases.

Debriefing experts are also supposed to gather information about the activities of smuggling networks.