ATHENS – Mayor George Kamminis said he is prepared for the capital city to host a holding center for illegal immigrants, one of a number to be set up in Greece to help stem the influx of people fleeing other countries, who want to seek asylum or move on to other European Union (EU) countries.
Athens was purged of most illegal immigrants earlier this year when a previous government conducted a sweep, especially in the Omonia Square area, which has been a haven for people from other countries but had turned into a veritable den of inequity, rife with crime, prostitution and drug addicts.
After a meeting with Citizens Protection and Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias, Kaminis said the city is prepared to do its part and host a center, although it has not specified where it would be, in an industrial or commercial area, a poor or rich neighborhood. Kaminis said that he would be cooperative and positive for “reception and hosting centers to be created.”
“We need urgent moves to enhance the people’s feeling of security,” said Kaminis, who has been at the helm of the city since 2010. The creation of these centers, Kaminis said, will hopefully set an example for other municipalities that have been reluctant to host similar facilities. Dendias said the measure was necessary to discourage clandestine immigrants from entering the country.
Dendias said that the establishment of the centers was necessary to stem migratory flows. Greece now has an estimated 1.5 million immigrants in its population of 11 million, and the numbers are growing fast, creating a backlash by groups such as the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party that won 18 seats in Parliament in the June 17 elections and that has also been linked to a wave of assaults on immigrants.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said he, too, is anti-immigrant and wants those who are in the country unlawfully to be deported and that his coalition government is seeking ways to restrict citizenship, even for immigrants born and raised in Greece and who speak Greek. Passed by the Socialist PASOK government ruling in 2010, the law allows second-generation immigrants whose parents have been living in Greece legally to apply for Greek citizenship. Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives are sharing power with PASOK and the tiny Democratic Left, which gave him their votes in Parliament, but who said they would not do so if he tries to change the immigration laws.
Dendias, however, said his job is controlling and restricting the flow of illegal immigrants. “We will follow the plan that was drawn up in 2010 and has been submitted to the EU,” Dendias said. That foresees the establishment of holding centers on Greece’s borders – for asylum-seekers and refugees requiring humanitarian support and detention centers for immigrants destined for deportation. The plan includes the operation of an independent Political Asylum Service, the staffing of which has been outstanding since 2011 when the service was institute.
A temporary detention center for undocumented migrants which opened in Amygdaleza, northwest of Athens, over two months ago but has been operating at a fraction of its intended capacity is to be extended to accommodate up to 1,000 illegal immigrants, aides to Dendias told the newspaper Kathimerini earlier this month. A 1.5 million euro ($1.82 million) contract has been awarded for the completion of the project to Iliohora, the company that built three of the existing 12 wings of the facility in Amygdaleza.
The sources told Kathimerini that Dendias is planning the creation of similar centers in northern Greece, one near Deskati in the prefecture of Grevena and the other in Konitsa, near Ioannina. Dendias called for more support from the European Union’s border monitoring agency, FRONTEX, to curb a ceaseless influx of immigrants, especially on the border with Turkey, which he said is not cooperating.
(Sources: AMNA, Kathimerini)