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Brussels, 24 October
Statement by Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner in charge of Home Affairs on the request of the Greek government to get assistance via Rapid Border Intervention Teams at the land border between Greece and Turkey.
Today the Greek Government requested from FRONTEX (the EU Agency for the Management of the Operational Cooperation at the External Borders) the deployment of Rapid Border Intervention Teams, to assist Greece in controlling its external land border with Turkey. Recently, the number of irregular migrants crossing the border has steadily augmented and the situation has become increasingly dramatic, particularly at the 12,5 kilometres stretch near the Greek town of Orestiada.
The Rapid Border Intervention Teams have been created in 2007, and are activated today for the first time. This mechanism aims to provide rapid operational assistance to a Member State that is facing a situation of urgent and exceptional pressure at points of its external borders, due to large numbers of third-country nationals trying to enter in an irregular way on the territory. The Teams, coordinated by FRONTEX, will be deployed at the external border and will ensure mutual assistance between Member States of the European Union; they will act under the authority of Greece and will be in place for a limited period of time.
Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström stated: "The situation at the Greek land border with Turkey is increasingly worrying. The flows of people crossing the border irregularly have reached alarming proportions and Greece is manifestly not able to face this situation alone. I am very concerned about the humanitarian situation. I trust that proper assistance will be given to all person crossing the border and that the request for international protection will be considered, in full compliance with EU and international standards. Over the last week, I have followed the situation very closely and I am in close contact with the Greek authorities and with FRONTEX. Following intense discussions during the last days, I have been informed today by Mr Christos Papoutsis, the Minister for Civil Protection, of the Greek government's request of assistance from the Rapid Border Intervention Teams and of cooperation with the European Commission. Greece will now be able to benefit concretely of European solidarity in the management of external borders. I have immediately activated the mechanism to liase with FRONTEX and to communicate among all interested partner, so as to handle this emergency situation in the most expeditious and efficient way."
The Commissioner recalled that the European Commission has already offered Greece a package of financial and practical assistance, to help the country implement a comprehensive and ambitious reform of its asylum system. The financial contribution comes from the financial programmes available in the area of Home affairs, such as the European Refugee Funds and the External Border Fund. Also several Member States contribute to this plan, by providing mainly practical assistance.