EU to help Greece counter clandestine immigration

Greek government wants EU to dispatch its "rapid border intervention teams".

Brussels: The European Union will help Greece face its growing problem with clandestine immigration, Internal Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said.

"Greece will now be able to benefit concretely of European solidarity in the management of external borders," Malmstroem said in a statement.

A Greek minister said earlier Sunday his country wants the European Union to deploy its immigration patrols on the Greek-Turkish border where a huge inflow of undocumented migrants has been recorded in recent months.

"A mass influx is noted daily on the Greek land border with Turkey by third-country nationals attempting to illegally enter the country with the aim of accessing other EU countries," said the office of Citizen`s Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, who is responsible for the police.

The Greek government wants the EU to immediately dispatch its "rapid border intervention teams" with support from European border agency Frontex, whose assistance has recently helped stem a similar migration flow by sea.

Malmstroem said she had "immediately activated the mechanism to liaise with Frontex and to communicate among all interested partners, so as to handle this emergency situation in the most expeditious and efficient way".

"The situation at the Greek land border with Turkey is increasingly worrying," she said.

"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."

The UN last week called on EU states to do more to lighten the migrant burden on Greece, which it said has created "catastrophic" conditions for refugees.

In 2008, 50 percent of all arrests of so-called illegals in the European Union took place in Greece but during the first eight months of 2010 it was 90 percent, according to the world body.

Tighter borders and regulations have diverted many refugees from Spain, Malta and Italy towards Greece, over-extending Greek authorities.

Frontex said more than three-quarters of the 40,977 people intercepted while clandestinely immigrating into the EU in the first half of 2010 entered through Greece, mainly coming from Turkey.

The effects are also felt in Greece`s overcrowded detention centres where conditions are "inhuman", United Nations special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak said this week.

Bureau Report