(ATHENS) - Greece wants closer cooperation with neighbours Bulgaria and Romania to combat organised crime and illegal migration, the country's minister for police said on Wednesday.
"We are creating close bonds at all levels by exchanging know-how and through joint operations on our borders," Citizen's Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis told a news conference after talks with his Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts in Athens.
"There is a need to take all necessary measures to keep our area, southeastern Europe, from becoming the European Union's migrant warehouse," said Papoutsis, flanked by the Bulgarian and Romanian interior ministers Tsvetan Tsvetanov and Constantin Traian Igas.
Greece has faced a migration surge from Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent in recent years that has badly strained its resources and exposed it to accusations of ill-treatment of immigrants and refugees.
Help from European border agency Frontex has helped to stem the tide but ongoing unrest in North Africa has raised concerns of a fresh influx.
Papoutsis said Wednesday that Frontex should also help repatriate migrants to their home countries when possible.
"This is a new role that we are requesting," he said.
"We want Frontex not only to participate in deterrence ... but to also have powers to repatriate in cases where the provenance of migrants is established."
"The temporary regime under which (Frontex) operates does not cover this," the minister said.
The Balkan neighbours also lie on a smuggling pathway to Europe exploited by rackets involved in drugs, prostitution and gun-running.
"There are networks that only operate at international level and the only way to dismantle them is by working together," Igas said.
Bulgaria has so far held joint police patrols in certain areas with Romania and Greece, Papoutsis said. He added that Greek and Bulgarian police will be operating in the summer in resorts frequented by Bulgarian tourists.
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