Frontex border guards shot at on Greek-Turkish border
(1 June 2011)
On May 20 2011 four Greek border guards, and two German border guards deployed under the Frontex mission Joint Operation (JO) Poseidon, reported being fired at by migrant smugglers in the Evros region of the Greek-Turkish border. The JO Poseidon has been in place since March 2011, following the first ever deployment of Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs) by Frontex between November 2010 and March 2011, following a request from Greece for assistance in managing its territorial border with Turkey. It is reported that smugglers intending to assist approximately 100 migrants across the Evros river into Greece began firing at the border guards’ vehicles. The border guards did not return fire. The guards contacted Turkish police who arrested the group of migrants, which they believed also contained the smugglers who had fired at the guards.
While Frontex has lauded its successes through the RABIT mission in significantly reducing the numbers of migrants crossing in this region by an estimated 45 percent from 2009, the head of the Evros police officers’ union stated that numbers have recently been increasing to above 100 a day. It has also been reported that the additional presence of border policing has shifted migration routes from the northern Evros prefecture to its southern sector nearby to the Greek towns of Soufli, Tycheros and Ferres. Meanwhile reports of drownings of migrants crossing the Evros continue.
Earlier in the week of the shootings, the Greek Citizens Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis presented schematics for the proposed 12 mile-long border fence planned for the Orestiada section of border in the Evros region, as well as a proposal for several new migrant reception areas. It is still unclear whether Greece will continue with efforts to build the fence, though it has been reported that they have received funding from the European Union to do so.
Frontex also released its 2011 Annual Risk Analysis report in May. Within the report, Frontex, the agency tasked with managing the external borders of the European Union, stated that it anticipates an increase in irregular migration in 2011 and 2012, due in part to the visa liberalisation process of neighbouring countries, political unrest in North Africa, and the possible accession of Croatia to the EU in 2011, identifying the Mediterranean and Turkey as the main points of entry. Frontex recently extended its JO Poseidon Land to the Bulgarian-Turkish border on April 30 that was expected to continue until May 25 2011, in efforts to stem irregular migration in to the EU.
Sources: ‘Border guards unhurt in shooting’, Ekathimerini, 20 May 2011; ‘Poseidon 2011: migrants smugglers open fire on border guards’, Frontex press release, 20 May 2011; ‘Migrant smugglers open fire on police, Frontex officers’, Athens News, 20 May 2011; ‘Frontex predicts that more people will enter the EU irregularly in 2011 and 2012’, ECRE Weekly Bulletin, 20 May 2011; ‘Operation Poseidon starts at Bulgarian-Turkish border’, Bulgarian News Agency, 30 April 2011.