A news report entitled “asylum seekers flock to EU safe haven”, referring to the unregistered migration problem in Greece, was published on Monday in the euobserver.com, an independent online newspaper.The news report underlined that “just over 300,000 asylum applicants registered in Europe last year, up from 259,000 in 2010, the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat, revealed on Friday, March 23rd. The vast majority registered in France, Germany and Italy. Most came from Afghanistan and Russia.”Referring to Greece it mentioned that “fewer than 10,000 asylum seekers registered in the country, but Greece’s management of its border crossing with Turkey has caused resentment in some of the larger member states,” adding that both Germany and Austria are pressing Athens to properly secure the 180-km Evros River, the country’s land border with Turkey.
Greece will build as many as 30 detention centres to house illegal immigrants due to be deported, Michalis Chrysohoidis said, risking nationwide opposition from regional authorities and residents’ groups.The public order minister said the plan to build an average of three centres in each of Greece’s 13 administrative regions would be finalized before the general election.The first of the centres is due to open next month at a disused army base near the northern town of Kozani, prompting an angry reaction from the city’s authorities, who said they had been kept in the dark over the plans until they were publicly announced.Illegal immigration has emerged as an election issue, with government under pressure from right-wing populist parties.
The plan to gather undocumented migrants in about 30 camps around the country continued to capture attention. There are an estimated one million undocumented migrants in Greece, so the camps would obviously hold a small fraction of the total. But somehow the sudden focus on security and undocumented immigration smacked of pre-electoral grandstanding.Moreover, local residents in areas where camps are planned – such as Kozani – are already up in arms, and such reactions could scuttle the entire scheme. In any event, analysts noted that Greece still lacks a comprehensive immigration policy, and camps alone cannot change that.“Pre-election theatre with illegal structures” read Ta Nea’s headline, referring to the withdrawal of the measure by Deputy Finance Minister Pantelis Economou. “Arguments over a [time] bomb” read another front-page title, referring to the camps for undocumented migrants. The story blamed regional governors for their opposition to setting up the camps in their areas.“Plans for 30 centres for illegal migrants” read Kathimerini’s headline. The story said that Civil Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis warned regional governors that he would proceed with the plan, even if they disagree. “Heightened tensions ahead of May 6 elections” read another title, regarding the political skirmishes between Pasok and New Democracy.
“They want to create a hellhole. We will have people next door to us who are suffering,» said Theoklitos Iotis, deputy mayor of Voio, an area which includes Neapoli. «How many of them will last under the sun in 40 degree heat» in the summer, he questioned. «We have sensitivities … We can’t see people suffer.”
Chrysochoidis also stressed that debt-strapped Greece could not cope with the strain of caring for the roughly 130,000 economic migrants who cross into the country illegally each year, and said repatriation was a priority.
“The cost of their remaining in Greece is unbearable, both for the Greek economy and for Greek society,» he said during his speech Thursday. «It unduly burdens the social welfare system, public health structures, public order and security, as well as the country’s national security.”
In Neapoli, local council president Christos Makris insisted the facilities were unacceptable, saying the base’s sewage system was designed for a far smaller number of people and would not be able to cope, thereby creating a health risk. He also rejected claims that the center would create jobs for local residents.
“We don’t want a single job that gives money based on the pain, misery and death of others,» he said.
Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis on Monday heralded the creation of 30 detention centers for illegal immigrants across the country by 2013, saying it was imperative that central and local government authorities cooperate to tackle illegal immigration, which he described as “a national problem” and “a ticking time bomb for public health.”
Addressing reporters after talks with regional leaders, Chrysochoidis said the plan was to set up three centers in each of the country’s 10 mainland regions, each holding at least 1,000 migrants. He added that his ministry and that of Defense would draft legislation outlining the creation of the facilities ahead of general elections, which are expected in late April or early May. The bill would be forced through Parliament without a vote.
Chrysochoidis said some 250 million euros in EU funding was available for the creation of the centers — which are to be set up at disused military facilities — through 2013.
Following protests by locals in Kozani, northern Greece, where the first of the centers is to be built, the minister acknowledged that there might be objections but sought to offer incentives. Each facility would bring jobs to some 1,000 locals, he said, noting that there would be a need for catering, cleaning, medical and security services.
Chrysochoidis also appealed to the governors’ sense of collective responsibility, noting that illegal immigration was a national problem. Many reportedly remained unmoved. Nevertheless, they have until the end of the week to submit proposals for possible sites. If they fail to do so, the ministry will decide for them. Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos already has drafted a list of 10 disused military facilities, sources said.