EU to help Turkey face up to illegal migration: Barrot
Agence France Presse
30 June 2009, 16:47 CET
(ATHENS) – The European Commission will financially assist Turkey to stop a growing flow of illegal immigration crossing into the bloc through its territory, the EU's top justice official said Tuesday.
“We will do everything possible to convince Turkey to combat illegal immigration networks and this includes financial assistance,” EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot told reporters during a visit to Athens.
“We cannot accept Turkey closing its eyes to people-smugglers who exploit would-be migrants and extort large sums of money from them,” Barrot said.
Athens has consistently accused Ankara of failing to stem a growing tide of clandestine immigration through Turkish territory which the Greeks say has pushed their resources to the limit.
Greek Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Tuesday said the number of migrants detained in Greece tripled from 40,000 in 2006 to 148,000 in 2008.
Barrot said the facts point to “complicity” between people-smugglers and local authorities at the migrants' point of departure.
“We do not have proof of this, but we know very well that whenever there is a real desire to stop this traffic there is a clear reduction,” he said.
He also promised Greece additional EU funds to address the problem and pledged to reinforce the bloc's border agency Frontex.
The EU will also help Turkey to sign readmission protocols with a number of Asian countries including Pakistan which are major sources of migration, the commissioner said.
Europe's current asylum legislation puts pressure on the first EU country that receives applicants to handle their claims but the rules could change under the Swedes who take over the bloc's rotating presidency on Wednesday, Barrot said.
The modification will take pressure off Greece which now takes the brunt of asylum applications, he added.