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13 Mar, 2012 08:00

Border disorder: EU pressures Greece to get a grip

Several EU states have demanded Athens toughen its lax border controls to stem the tide of illegals pouring into the rest of Europe via Greece. Greece became the European gateway for illegal immigrants after the Arab Spring erupted last year.

A group of seven EU justice and home affairs ministers said if Greece doesn't tighten its immigration controls, other European Union states may be forced to reinstate the border checks abolished in 1995 under the Schengen agreement.A joint paper agreed upon by the seven countries, including Germany,UK and France, urges Greece to "live up to its responsibilities" and "keep its house in order" by securing its border with Turkey."The question is still open on what happens when a country is not in a position to sufficiently safeguard its borders – as we are currently experiencing in Greece," said Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister.The Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said the Greek-Turkish border is “open like a barn door."Addressing the issue of immigration, French President Nicolas Sakrozy went even further, threatening to pull France out of the visa-free zone unless the union toughens up its immigration policy.EU countries have become increasingly critical of Greece's slack border controls, especially with Turkey. The number of immigrant sneaking over has risen in the wake of the Arab Spring. There is also steady flow of people fleeing from war-torn countries where NATO has been embroiled.“From Afghanistan the numbers have increased,” Hellenic Police spokesperson Athanasios Kokkalakis told RT. “In reality its one of the nationalities we have the biggest problem with. There are a lot of people who are trying to cross the Turkish borders to come into Greece”. The troublesome border stretches for about 192 kilometers, most of it guarded by the Evros river.Some 55,000 people reached Greece alone in 2010 a sizable chunk of the estimated 100,000 seeking refuge in the country every year.In desperation, Greek authorities called on European border guards to help police the area.Now they are searching for a more concrete alternative, erecting 9 kilometers of razor wire along the short land border. But the European Commission has fallen in line with a number of domestic human rights groups who say the fence is inhumane and only increases the number of those killed trying to cross it.  The European Commission has recently earmarked around 300 million euros in total for Greece to manage immigration.The EU court rulings say that asylum seekers or illegal immigrants entering Europe from Greece cannot be deported because of concerns over "inhuman and degrading conditions" in Greek detention centers.There are aid agencies treating the sick in Athens and they have long cared for refugees. But amidst its current economic woes, they are now draining resources needed to treat Greeks as well.And as their quality of life continues to tumble down around them, Greek authorities are still placing great faith in bricks, mortar and razor wire.