Theresa May, the Home Secretary, on Thursday joined Germany, France, Austria, Holland, Belgium and Sweden to demand EU intervention to plug a hole that is allowing illegal immigration via Greece into the rest of Europe.Source: Telegraph
A joint paper agreed by the seven countries urges Greece to "live up to its responsibilities" and "keep its house in order" by securing the Greek border with Turkey, which is also the frontier of the EU's free movement Schengen zone.
"We believe our combined efforts will help ensure that the EU is taking practical steps to combat illegal immigration, and help reduce the numbers travelling unlawfully to the UK," said a British diplomat.
Passport-free travel within Europe, outside Britain and Ireland, is regarded as a major achievement but what applies to European travellers also applies to illegal immigrants allowing them entry to any EU country without showing identity papers.
British officials have identified evidence that the loophole has led to a sharp increase in attempted asylum shopping and the abuse of sham marriages as Pakistani and Afghan illegal immigrants take advantage of the EU's open borders policy to head to Britain from Greece.
Asylum applications in Austria are up 41 per cent this year, with an influx of illegal immigrants traced back to the lack of controls on the Greek-Turkish border. German asylum applications were up 19 per cent last year.
Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister, has called for passport controls to be introduced between the EU and Greece unless the Greek government, reeling from a debt crisis and economic crash, can manage its borders.
"The question is still open on what happens when a country is not in a position to sufficiently safeguard its borders – as we are currently experiencing in Greece," he said.
Johanna Mikl-Leitner, the Austrian interior minister said: "The border is open like a barn door."
The problem is made worse because of EU court rulings that asylum seekers or illegal immigrants entering Europe from Greece cannot be deported back there because of concerns over "inhuman and degrading conditions" in Greek detention centres.
Nicolas Schmit, Luxembourg's immigration minister, called on the EU to help, not to punish, Greece. "The Greeks are in a deep crisis and we must help the Greeks – and not just economically, financially. We have to solve this problem together," he said.