The European Commission almost two years ago vowed to recruit 10,000 officials to bolster its Frontex border force agency in the wake of the bloc’s recent migration crisis. But the first round of 700 new officers will not be sufficiently trained for deployment until next January, according to officials. The entire 10,000-strong “Standing Corps” will not be fully operational until 2027, a source added.
The bloc currently has just 1,100 border officials spread thinly across its vast external borders.
Ankara raised fears of a fresh migration influx into Europe after reportedly bussing refugees to its borders with Greece and Bulgaria.
Videos from state-controlled news agency, Anadolu, showed around 300 migrants making their way through fields and roads close to the Greek border.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party said it was “no longer able to hold refugees” headed for the border after a Syrian airstrike killed 33 of its troops.
One migrant interviewed by a Turkish television channel said they had been driven there free by bus.
And in central Istanbul footage emerged of long lines of asylum seekers waiting for buses to take them onwards to the border.
At one point smugglers were even reported to have run out of makeshift boats for the migrants to make the deadly sea crossing.
The local Lighthouse Relief charity group said it had witnessed Turkish Coast Guard ships waving boats through en route to Europe.
Turkey has denied the allegations that it has dropped its commitments to block refugees from entering the Continent.
It promised to take back refugees from Greece after a cash injection as part of a 2016 migration pact with Brussels.
Government spokesman Omer Celik said: “As a result of the attack, the refugees in Turkey are heading towards Europe, and those on Syrian territory are heading towards Turkey.
“Our refugee policy is the same as before, but we are now in a situation where we can no longer hold them.
Frontex said it is ready to relocate its border guards to hotspots in case of an increase in migration flows through the EU’s borders with Turkey.
A spokesman said: “When it comes to the current situation, if needed, we may consider moving officers from other operations.”
Athens has warned it expects around 100,000 refugees to arrive on its territory in 2020 – up from 60,000 in 2019.