RABIT operation at Greek-Turkish border to be replaced by Joint Operation Poseidon
(8 March 2011)
The agency responsible for the management of the external borders of the EU, Frontex, announced on 3 March 2011 that its first ever deployment of the Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs) had officially ended. Beginning on 2 November 2010, the mission based at the land border between Greece and Turkey was extended on 3 December. The RABITs included up to 200 ‘border specialists’ from 25 Member States and after the four month operation they will now be replaced by Joint Operation (JO) Poseidon.
Frontex has stated that the RABIT mission resulted in a 76 percent reduction in irregular migration in the Evros River region, situated in the north-east of Greece. The 12km section of land boundary was the major point of entry into the EU, with an estimated 245 apprehensions per day in 2010. It is now reported than an average of 58 persons are apprehended daily. During the time of the RABIT mission it was reported that a total of 11,809 migrants and 34 traffickers were detected crossing from Turkey into Greece. The Deputy Executive Director of Frontex, Gil Arias Fernández, present for the closing of the operation, was quoted as saying, “Frontex will continue to support Greece in the management of irregular migration at its land and sea borders with Turkey through the continuing provisions of Joint Operation (JO) Poseidon, which was active in the area prior to the RABIT deployment and which will continue as an open-ended operation.”
Poseidon was in operation on both land and sea before the inception of the RABIT mission at the end of 2010, though reports suggest this new mission may also extend to the border between Bulgaria and Turkey. The land-based JO Poseidon is to last until the end of 2011. Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs, in a press release following the end of the RABIT operation, stated that the immediate follow-on with JO Poseidon will, “ensure continuity in effectively controlling the Greek-Turkish border, as well as in addressing irregular immigration in the Eastern Mediterranean region.” She also stressed the importance of cooperation with Turkey, echoing statements by Frontex that one of the successes of the RABIT mission was in generating further cooperation in the border region between Greece and Turkey.
In other Frontex related news, it was announced on 1 March that the HERMES mission currently deployed in the Mediterranean since 20 February 2011, may be extended to Malta in order to deal with the possibility of migrants arriving from Libya. The HERMES mission was formed following a request from Italy for assistance in managing the recent arrivals of Tunisian and migrants from North Africa on the island of Lampedusa. Most recently it was estimated that over 1000 migrants from Tunisia arrived in 10 boats on the island on 6 March 2011.
Source: ‘Frontex and the RABIT operation at the Greek-Turkish border’, Europa Press Releases, 2 March 2011; ‘Statement by Commissioner Malmström on the end of the RABIT operation and the launch of Operation Poseidon in Greece’, Plus News Pakistan, 2 March 2011; ‘RABIT operation 2010 ends, replaced by JO Poseidon 2011’, Frontex, 3 March 2011; ‘Frontex launches new mission in Greece’, Europolitics, 3 March 2011; ‘Frontex, Rabit mission to be replaced by Poseidon operation’, Agence Europe, 4 March 2011; ‘Hermes mission could be extended to Malta, says Frontex’, Agence Europe, 2 March 2011; ‘North African boat migrants land on Lampedusa’, Guardian, 7 March 2011