A European Union investigation has found major flaws in Greece’s management of its borders that could pave the way for EU partners to introduce long-term identity checks to restrict the entry of migrants further into the continent.
Backing up the suspicions of several EU nations, surprise inspections by expert teams in Greece, including on Aegean islands near the coast of Turkey, found that Greek authorities were failing to register and fingerprint people properly or correctly check their travel papers.
The EU’s top migration official, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said the report “shows that there are serious deficiencies in the management of the external border in Greece”.
More than 850,000 people are thought to have entered Greece last year seeking sanctuary or jobs in Europe.
The country only has shelter for about 10,000 people, and thousands of migrants have moved north, hoping to find a home in wealthier EU countries such as Germany or Sweden.
The report is important because Germany has temporarily reintroduced border controls in its part of the passport-free Schengen area until 13 May, after around one million people applied for asylum last year. Beyond that date, Berlin has no legal means of maintaining ID checks.
But if the EU’s executive commission rules that Greece has demonstrated “serious deficiencies in carrying out external border control”, countries such as Germany, Austria and Sweden could keep their border controls for up to two years.
EU nations would have to vote in favour of the move by around a two-thirds majority, but Greece alone could not stop them.