European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Wednesday announced the extension of the Frontex border guards’ mission along the Greek borders with Turkey.

The European Commissioner stated that the Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT) operation deployed by Frontex in Greece since November 2, 2010 until today March 2, 2011 will continue through the immediate launch of the Poseidon joint operation. The Poseidon operation is under the auspices of Frontex since 2006, and is assigned with the mission to help guard Greece’s sea borders with Turkey.

“The immediate launch of the Poseidon joint operation to follow up on the RABIT will ensure continuity in effectively controlling the Greek-Turkish border, as well as in addressing irregular immigration in the Eastern Mediterranean region,” she stressed.

The RABIT operation “has been of great importance for stabilising the situation at the Greek land border with Turkey. This has been a concrete proof of European solidarity,” Malmstrom said.

The European Commissioner also called on all member states “to continue supporting and actively participate in this operation,” pointing out that she “counts on Greece to continue its efforts to secure the border, to improve the migration cooperation with Turkey, and to ensure that all arriving migrants are received in human and dignified conditions.”

Malmstrom’s statement also stressed that “the Commission urges the Greek authorities to improve reception and detention conditions for migrants coming to Greece. Vulnerable groups such as families, children, pregnant women, and victims of abuse must receive special attention and consideration.”

She reminded that the Commission has provided financial assistance to Greece to this end (9.8 million euros in Dec. 2010), adding that “we are closely monitoring the humanitarian situation which still gives rise to serious concern”.

The statement also mentioned that the first asylum support teams coordinated by the European Asylum Support Office arrived in Greece last week.

The European Commissioner stressed that “cooperation with Turkey is of fundamental importance” and welcomed “the member states’ endorsement last week of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement. The Commission considers Turkey as an important partner and will soon take steps to launch a dialogue on visa, migration and border management.”