Budget airline tickets fuel illegal immigration into Europe, warns EU border chief

immigration_europe_illegalIllegal immigration into Europe is being fuelled by airlines that sell budget tickets from North Africa for as little as £120, a senior European border control official has warned.

Migrants buy low-cost, one-way tickets from Morocco and Algeria to Turkey and then slip into Europe via Turkey’s porous land borders with Greece and Bulgaria, according to Gil Arias, the deputy executive director of Frontex.

They are able to take advantage of a recent policy of so-called “visa diplomacy” on the part of Turkey, which has sought to expand its influence in the Middle East by relaxing visa restrictions for citizens from other Muslim nations.

The route is quicker and safer than taking a people-smuggling boat across the Mediterranean. Two such vessels sank earlier this month in the waters between Libya and Lampedusa in Italy, with the loss of more than 500 lives.

“Due to this visa policy by Turkey to the North African nations, people are flying to Istanbul on cheap flights and then on to Greece and more recently, Bulgaria,” said Mr Arias, who previously served as a police inspector and border control official in Spain. “When they get there they discard their travel documents, and will sometimes pretend to be either Palestinians or Syrians in order to try to claim refugee status.”

 There is no suggestion that airlines are complicit in illegal immigration, but Mr Arias said Frontex was powerless to stop them carrying such passengers – mainly Moroccan and Algerian passport holders. He said there was no evidence in advance that the passengers were planning to cross into the European Union.

His comments come at a time of growing tensions between European Union nations over how to tackle illegal immigration and who should share the burden. In Greece, public anxiety over the influx has helped in the rise of the Far-Right Golden Dawn party.

Last week, Bulgaria announced that it was planning to spend £2.2?million on a fence to limit the number of Syrian migrants fleeing the country’s civil war.

The 20-mile long fence will go around the mountainous region of Elhovo, one of the most difficult areas to police, after the arrival of 6,800 migrants – 70 per cent of them Syrian – since the start of the year. Bulgaria, which the EU’s poorest member, has demanded extra Brussels aid to deal with the problem. – telegraph.co.uk

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