The importance of guarding the European borders in the context of an overall policy of the European Union in the immigration issue was underlined by the Minister of Immigration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, during the opening of the work of the 2nd European Conference on Border Management, which takes place today and tomorrow in Athens .

Mr. Mitarakis highlighted the necessity of a new European Pact on Migration and Asylum that would face three challenges: to limit irregular arrivals in the EU, in order to reduce not only primary but also secondary flows, to provide tangible solidarity between member states and to create legal routes for humanitarian and labor purposes.

The Migration Minister stressed that “it is vital for Europe to decide what kind of immigration policy we want and more specifically what kind of border management we need” adding that “today unfortunately instead of being proactive in managing asylum, it is the people traffickers who “sell “places in our societies”.

He called for “reinforced border protection and surveillance infrastructure, including fences, a position supported by 16 member states in Vilnius (in 1st Conference)”.

He then expressed his opposition to “the involvement of NGOs in assisting illegal border crossings” and pointed out that the issue of returns must be raised by the EU as a whole and “align our legislation with the aim of returns”. “A low level of returns of those not entitled to protection undermines the credibility and more generally the logic of the asylum system,” he added.

The Conference, co-organized by Austria, Lithuania, Poland and Greece, is attended by representatives of the governments of EU member states and countries of the European Economic Area, European commissioners and heads of European organizations. The Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for the Promotion of the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, also addressed the opening of the Conference today.