Frontex to have permanent presence at Greek-Turkish border while Malta declines Frontex assistance for second year
(15 February 2011)
Following the initial deployment of the Frontex-organized Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs) in November 2010, and the extension of their stay until 3 March, it has been reported that Frontex will now remain at the Greek-Turkish border on a permanent basis. Frontex will replace the RABIT operation with border guards under Joint Operation Poseidon. While the RABIT mission required mandatory participation from Member States under the emergency rule announced in late 2010 – following Greece’s request to the EU for assistance in managing the increased levels of migrants and asylum seekers crossing from Turkey – the Poseidon mission will instead involve Member States volunteering to take part. It has been reported that 23 Member States have so far agreed to help meet the requirement of 100 border guards per month, replacing the 175 guards deployed for the RABIT operation. Poseidon was initially launched in 2006 to patrol the coastal waters between Greece and Turkey. It was later expanded elsewhere in the Mediterranean, including a land mission along the Greek and Bulgarian borders with Turkey. During November 2010, Frontex reported that its RABIT program had resulted in a 44 percent decrease in migrants crossing into Greece.
Meanwhile Malta, an EU member state that has contributed to the RABIT operations at the Greek-Turkish border, has declined to partake in Frontex operations in the Mediterranean for the second consecutive year. It is believed that due to agreements between Italy and Libya to return apprehended migrants and asylum seekers found at sea, migration to islands such as Malta and Lampedusa has been reduced to almost zero. Malta was the main destination for migrants and asylum seekers attempting to enter the EU until the more recent inception of Frontex patrols in the Mediterranean. Following these operations, the number of migrants arriving on the island decreased from 2,775 in 2008 to only 47 in 2010. Malta also coordinates joint repatriation flights with Frontex to return existing asylum seekers from the island. It is believed that migration routes have now shifted primarily to the land border between Greece and Turkey, demonstrated by Greece’s appeals to the EU for assistance in managing its land border.
Source: ‘Frontex set to extend Evros stay’, Ekathimerini, 10 February 2011; ‘Frontex to stay at Greek-Turkish land border, European Council on Refugees and Exiles, 11 February 2011; ‘No Frontex mission planned this year’, Ivan Camilleri, Times of Malta, 4 February 2011.