The UK is offering to deploy a team of experts to Greece to help deal with the unprecedented number of migrants travelling from Turkey to the continent, the Immigration Minister announced today.
Speaking at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg, James Brokenshire outlined the offer to send a package of around 75 personnel, vital equipment and medical supplies to Greece as part of the EU/Turkey deal agreed by European leaders, including the Prime Minister, last month.
The staff - who represent the largest deployment from the UK to the region to date - will include:
- 40 staff to support the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in the processing and screening of migrants
- 10 interpreters capable of speaking specified Middle-Eastern and Asian languages and dialects that are in short supply
- up to 10 medical personnel
- 2 trauma incident managers (TRIMs) to manage the welfare of those deployed
- up to 10 staff to ensure the efficient and effective co-ordination between the Greek authorities, EU agencies and member states
Over 178,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean since the start of January 2016 including almost 154,000 to Greece. At the European Council on 17 to 18 March, European leaders agreed a plan with Turkey to end illegal migration from Turkey to the EU. The agreement specifically aims to prevent migrants from leaving Turkey in the first place and to return to Turkey those who make it to Greece.
Under the deal, the implementation of which began last week, 325 migrants have been returned and the number of migrants arriving on Greek islands has reduced considerably from around 2,000 a day in February to around 100 per day.
Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, said:
The UK strongly welcomes the EU/Turkey deal and believes it will make a genuine difference to managing the flows of migration. It will help discourage people from attempted crossings and from putting themselves in the hands of smugglers.
We have been actively engaged in supporting the deal since it was introduced and today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to supporting Greece where and how they need it most.
The UK is one of a number of countries currently supporting Greece to put in place the necessary human resources, infrastructure and reception capacity to enable them to process migrants and undertake large scale return operations. Under the deal, migrants who arrive in Greece are assessed to see if they can be returned to Turkey. Irregular economic migrants can be immediately returned. If a migrant wishes to make an asylum claim, they are assessed to see if they are admissible.
As well as helping Athens with planning for implementation of the deal, the UK has also deployed 3 Border Force vessels to assist in search and rescue missions under the command of the Greek Hellenic Coastguard and a Royal Navy vessel operating as part of the NATO mission.