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Frontex: Every day 300 illegal immigrants are registered on the Greek-Turkish border

16 November 2011 / 22:11:49  GRReporter
6332 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

In the first nine months of 2011, the European authorities have registered almost twice as many illegal immigrants than in the same period of 2010. In particular, from January 1 to September 30 this year, 112,844 immigrants arrived in Europe, while last year the number was 76,697. "This jump is due to the mass inflow from North African countries, which was directed mainly at Italy and Malta in the first half of this year," said deputy director of the European border control agency Frontex, Gil Arias Fernandez, at a press conference in Athens.

The 2011 peak was in March when 20,000 people were registered, 17,000 of whom came from the Maghreb countries. Respectively, the largest number of immigrants in 2010 was recorded on the Greek-Turkish border in September and October. "We are talking about 14,000 immigrants per month; almost 8,000 have crossed the Greek border line."

"Now, the so-called Mediterranean route is almost closed. This is because the authorities in Tunisia have improved border control and signed a readmission agreement with Italy. From mid-August when the Interim Council in Libya took over the government, immigrant flow from the country decreased. The third reason is that in winter, weather conditions make it difficult to move by sea," said Fernandez.

He added that many citizens of the countries in the sub-Saharan region, who were working in Libya, have arrived in Europe with the Libyans. "Gaddafi's regime began to use immigrants as a weapon against Europe after the operations in the country had been launched."

According to Frontex data, illegal immigrant inflow in Europe through the so-called Eastern-Mediterranean route, i.e. the border between Greece and Turkey, is almost of the same intensity as in 2010. Last year, from January to October 39,000 illegal immigrants were registered, while this year there are 2,000 less.

The majority of immigrants come from Afghanistan, although this year a 25% drop has been recorded. At the same time, the number of Pakistanis has increased and there are five times more than in 2010. Increase was registered in the number of immigrants from Bangladesh too.

Frontex paid attention to the increase in the number of immigrants from the Maghreb countries - Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, who do not arrive in Europe crossing the Spanish maritime borders but prefer the land border between Greece and Turkey. "From 1 January to 30 October, in Greece 1,700 Algerians, 1,000 Moroccans and 300 Tunisians were registered and their number in Spain was respectively 900, 200 and 1." According to Gil Arias Fernandez, North Africans have turned to the Eastern-Mediterranean route for several reasons, "Their countries have no visa regime with Turkey. Thus, they can travel easily to Istanbul whose airport is located very close to the border with Greece. They cross it with the help of the hundreds of trafficking networks operating in Turkey and at much lower prices."

The reduction of the immigrant flow to Western Europe was followed by an increase on the Greek-Turkish land border. In October 9,600 immigrants were registered, which is 20% more than in October 2010. This means that the authorities have captured an average of 300 illegal immigrants a day.

"Once the immigrants arrive in Greece, they try to reach Western European countries in two ways. First is the sea route of the Ionian Sea to the Italian border near Calabria and Puglia. Significantly fewer immigrants pass through the Western Balkans, but there is also the route of Macedonia - Serbia - Hungary - Austria and the increase in the desired country is 35%. This year, the number has reached 2,000. The number of immigrants trying to enter Europe by crossing the Turkish-Bulgarian border is insignificant.

Frontex does not expect a drastic change in the large flow of illegal immigrants crossing the Greek-Turkish border. "The reasons are lack of reception centres in both countries, lack of readmission agreements with some countries of origin, the proximity of Istanbul to the border and the low prices of airline flights, the low visa regime to Turkey and the large number of trafficking networks operating in Turkey with Greek staff," said Fernandez.

Tags: SocietyIllegal immigrationFrontexMaghreb countriesGreek-Turkish borderItalyTrafficking networks
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