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European Union: Deployment of Rapid Intervention Border Teams to Secure Greek-Turkish Border

(Nov. 8, 2010) On November 2, 2010, at the request of the Greek government, the European Union border management agency (Frontex) gathered patrols from all EU Member States except Ireland and Great Britain and from two non-EU member states, Iceland and Norway, and dispatched them to patrol an area of 120 kilometers on a “24-hour joint surveillance” of the Greek-Turkish border, conducted along with their Greek counterparts who regularly patrol the area. The special mission is to be carried out for two months. (Valentina Pop, EU Sending 175 Armed Guards to Greek- Turkish Border, EU OBSERVER (Oct. 30, 2010),

The Rapid Intervention Border Team, known as Rabit, consists of 175 guards who will safeguard an area in eastern Greece between the cities of Orestiada and Alexandroupolis; this area experiences the largest flow of illegal immigrants crossing the border from Turkey. Pursuant to data obtained by Frontex, about 90% of illegal migrants used Greece as an entry point to the EU in the second quarter of 2010, compared to 65% in the first quarter. The patrol teams are allowed to carry and use firearms, if needed, provided that Greece and the illegal immigrants' home country grant their consent. The border guards are equipped to detect false documents, to use trained dogs, and to interview illegal immigrants through interpreters. Frontex has drafted a manual to be used by the patrol teams to enhance their knowledge of EU immigration and asylum law, Frontex rules of engagement, and international human rights law. Should the guards commit criminal offenses, they will be subject to Greek criminal jurisdiction. (Id.)

The United Nations Refugee Agency, while acknowledging the need for border control, voiced its concerns over the danger that the opportunity to seek asylum by those immigrants who may be entitled to it might be denied. During the past year, Greece has been heavily criticized for its detention centers housing illegal migrants, including asylum seekers. Greece's Minister of Citizen's Protection pointed out that the country lacks the appropriate facilities to house such persons as well as trained officials to assist them. (Id.)