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Brussels, 15 December 2010

The European Commission provides an additional 9.8 million and further technical support to Greece on asylum and border issues

The European Union is strengthening its support to Greece in the area of migration and asylum with an additional package of €9.8 million for emergency needs and with teams of experts deployed in Greece to assist Athens in supporting the reform of the national asylum system.

For Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, "the humanitarian situation of migrants and asylum-seekers in Greece is extremely worrying. Improving the reception facilities is very urgent. The Greek authorities are benefiting from European solidarity through a package of financial and practical assistance and I urge them to put all necessary measures in place to assist the persons in need. Greece also needs to swiftly adopt the legislation reforming its national asylum system so that a sustainable situation can be found to this emergency".

In order to better assist Greece, the Commission has made available a package of €9.8 million under the European Refugee Fund 2010 for emergency measures. The package, which comes in addition to measures already financed under the European Border Fund, the European Refugee fund and the European Return fund, will focus on increasing the accommodation capacity, including the provision of basic services to the persons in need, setting up mobile medical units, and institutional support to process asylum claims. It covers immediate and urgent needs and is available as from 1 December, for a period of 6 months.

Further help to Greece is also provided by teams of experts, comprising the Commission, Member States, UNHCR and Frontex experts. The teams will be travelling to Greece this week to support the Greek authorities in their efforts to reform the Greek asylum system and to assess the situation at the Greek-Turkish border.

Two teams of experts will assist the Greek authorities in supporting the reform of the national asylum system. Based on offers of assistance by several EU Member States and on a number of immediate needs highlighted by Greece, the Commission identified four priority actions for the immediate deployment of expertise to Greece. On this basis, two teams of Member States' experts will be deployed on the ground providing expertise in the areas of case management of asylum claims, registration and screening of international protection needs in cases of mixed migration flows as well as the provision of training to the Greek authorities in accordance with the European Asylum Curriculum framework. Another team will be deployed in the second half of January 2011 to provide expertise in the area of quality management of asylum decision-making.

Furthermore, a second mission of Commission experts will travel to Greece on Thursday 16 December to carry out a fact finding mission aiming at assessing the reception conditions for irregular migrants and possible asylum-seekers in the border area close to the Turkish land border. Such a mission will allow the Commission to have a more precise understanding of the situation on the ground and of the priorities for action at national and EU level in the next few weeks.

The deployment of the RABITs (Rapid Border Intervention Teams) by the Frontex Agency, the adoption by the Commission of an additional package of €9.8 million for emergency needs as well as the participation of Member States' experts to this week's missions continue to prove concrete European solidarity in helping Greece manage the increased pressure at its external land border and implement its comprehensive plan on asylum and migration management reform.


On RABIT teams:

Since the RABIT operation was launched about a month ago, a gradual decrease of flows of irregular entries has been witnessed at the relevant border sections between Greece and Turkey. In October there were 7586 persons detected at the Greek Turkish land border and on 29 November 4270 had crossed during that month. However the humanitarian conditions for irregular migrants remain very difficult, with overcrowded reception and detention centres and a lack of basic amenities for migrants, among which potential asylum-seekers.

On the Greek action plan on asylum:

Recently, an important step was taken by Greece with the completion of the legal framework for addressing the current backlog of asylum cases. A new law on the establishment of a new Asylum service to operate under the Ministry of Citizens' protection, the setting up of screening centres and the transposition of the Return Directive, are to be discussed soon in the Greek Parliament. It is now important that the implementation of the Action Plan is pursued in a persistent and coordinated manner by Greece.

The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) will contribute further to the support of Greece for the implementation of its Action Plan. The issue will remain a priority over the next few years and will next be discussed at the upcoming EASO Management Board on 4 February 2011, with a view to triggering as soon as possible the assistance mechanism to the Member States in need which is provided for in the EASO legal basis.

On the European Refugee Fund:

The ERF is a tool supporting the efforts of Member States to apply fair and effective asylum procedures and to protect the rights of persons requiring international protection. The ERF also provides assistance to Member States which may face particular pressure: an allocation of €9.8 million is available each year to provide additional support to Member States facing a sudden massive afflux of persons who may be in need of international protection. Greece already benefited from the support of the ERF emergency measures in 2008 and 2009.

For more information

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:

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