Last week, Frontex Deputy Executive Director for Returns and Operations, Lars Gerdes travelled to Greece and Cyprus to meet with our partners and discuss the ongoing and future cooperation, particularly in the area of returns. The agency supports both Member States with operational activities amid the high number of arrivals this year.
In Greece, the visit included a meeting with the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi to discuss how to strengthen the existing cooperation in the area of return.
The agency is planning to expand its support in a number of return-related activities through a dedicated action plan, which will include, among others, reinforced operational and technical support in voluntary and forced returns. The agency will also assist Greece in establishing working relations with non-EU countries and provide support in identification and counselling of migrants to inform them about the possibilities to return voluntarily to their home countries and receive reintegration support.
Frontex Deputy Executive Director also discussed the ongoing cooperation in operations with the leadership of the Hellenic Police and the Hellenic Coast Guard. He was assured by the Hellenic authorities that all agreed operational procedures are followed, respecting the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
In Cyprus, Director Gerdes met with the Cypriot Minister of the Interior, Chief of Police and the Commander of Aliens and Immigration Unit, Nicos Nouris, as well as the authorities of the Pournara reception centre. He also visited the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Larnaca, where he met with its Commander to hear about the activities of the centre, including the development of a Search and Rescue training centre next year.
Frontex is monitoring the high migration flows recorded in Cyprus from the beginning of 2022 and is ready to increase support on the ground. The agency currently supports Cyprus with 54 officers deployed to three operations, who provide support in the field of migration management, border checks and return measures. In particular, the agency actively helps Cyprus with return operations, including voluntary return. Among the deployed officers, there are 12 experts who support Cyprus in return counselling.
Frontex's role in returns and reintegration
Frontex helps EU Member States return people who have been staying in Europe illegally. The agency can coordinate, execute, and finance return operations with charter planes, as well as with commercial flights.
In addition, this year Frontex has started to support Eu and Schengen countries in providing reintegration assistance to migrants returned to their countries of origin, both during the first days following the arrival in the country of origin, as well as longer-term assistance up to 12 months to help returnees reintegrate into their societies. Selected reintegration partners provide services such as long-term housing, medical assistance, job counselling, education, assistance in setting up a small business, family reunification, across 26 different countries.