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EU anti-terror team to track jihadists at Greek migrant camps

Angelos Tzortzinis, AFP | A migrant prays outside his tent outside the former international airport in Athens, currently used as a temporary camp for migrants and refugees, on August 10, 2016

A team of EU anti-terror specialists will arrive in mainland Greece this month to track down would-be jihadists in Greek migrant camps. Some of the jihadists behind the November 2015 Paris attacks entered Europe by posing as refugees in Greece.

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The deployment will consist of around 30 European police officers and is part of a “permanent cooperation between Greek authorities, their European counterparts and Europol", a Greek police source told national daily Kathimerini on Saturday.

The expert team from the European police agency Europol will be tasked with identifying individuals who could be in the process of being radicalised.

Europol spokesperson Alexandru Niculae told FRANCE 24 that the team will be involved in secondary security checks rather than first-line border control.

“In a nutshell, Europol cross-checks data submitted by its partners against data held in specialist counter-terrorist and other Europol databases,” said Niculae.

Europol exchanges information with EU member states and shares in analysis.

While earlier anti-terror operations have concentrated on the "hotspot" migrant registration camps on the Greek islands near Turkey, this mission will focus on the dozens of camps on the mainland.

At least two of the jihadists who carried out the November 2015 Paris attacks slipped into Europe by posing as Syrian refugees in Greece, sparking fears that more extremists could be using the migration crisis to do the same.

Greece was hit by a massive wave of migration in 2015. More than 47,000 migrants – most of them Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans – remain in Greek camps, their journey through Europe delayed since the Balkan countries closed their borders last winter.

The number of migrant arrivals has dropped significantly, however, since a controversial deal in March between the EU and Ankara in which migrants are sent back to Turkey if they fail to apply for asylum or their claim is rejected.

But recent reports suggest numbers may again be on the rise.

Greek Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas downplayed concerns, however, noting that the numbers are manageable and that Turkey appears to be honouring its agreement with the European Union.

“We have a daily average of 80-100 people and that has roughly been the average since the beginning of the agreement,” Mouzalas told Kathimerini.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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