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EU refuses to fund 'pointless' Greece-Turkey border fence

07 February 2012, 19:01 CET
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(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission rejected on Tuesday a request from Greece to help pay to build a fence along its porous border with Turkey, calling the project "pointless."

Greece started building the 10-kilometre (six-mile) long, 2.5-metre (eight foot) high barrier along the Turkish border on Monday to prevent thousands of illegal migrants from streaming into the European Union.

The cost is estimated at 5.5 million euros ($7.3 million) and it is due to be completed in five months.

"The commission has decided not to follow up the Greek request because it considers it pointless," Michele Cercone, a European Commission spokesman, told a news briefing.

"Fences and walls are short term measures that do not solve migration management issues in a structural way."

It is up to EU states to decide how to secure their borders, but they have to take into account "international obligations including the respect of migrants, human rights," Cercone said.

Greece is slated to received 90 million euros from the EU this year to help it deal with an influx of migrants and asylum seekers that has inundated the country's immigration system.

But the funds cannot be used to finance the new border fence, the commission said.

"What the country needs is medium and long term reforms and structural measures to better manage its borders in a modern and human way, and to address its migration and asylum challenges," Cercone said.

The Greek-Turkish border runs a total of 150 kilometres and is a major crossing point for would-be immigrants trying to enter the European Union.

Around 55,000 migrants were arrested in the area last year, a 16.77 percent increase over 2010, according to official figures. EU border agency Frontex says a third of attempted illegal entries into the EU were through Greece.

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