Photo: amna.gr/Alkis Konstantinidis
The police action to capture illegal immigrants in central Athens and near the land border between Greece and Turkey is intensively going on. Another sixteen specially trained police dogs have been included in the police teams acting along the Maritsa River and the towns of Alexandroupolis and Orestiada. At the same time, 7,361 foreigners have been captured from the beginning of the operation called "Xenius Zeus" - the god of hospitality in ancient Greece - to today and 1,596 of them have been arrested. The rest have been released because they had documents providing them with legal residence in the country.
However, residents and owners of commercial sites in downtown Athens said that the operation yielded results. GRReporter contacted the journalist Dimitris Triandafilidis who lives in Metaksurgio, which is one of the central areas "occupied" by the highest number of illegal immigrants.
"The situation in central Athens has improved. I'm talking about the neighbourhoods around Omonia Square: Metaksurgio, Votanikos, Haftia. Daily police presence deters the activities of multinational gangs. These are the people of the so-called "petty crime", who mainly rob passers-by, open cars and sell drugs.
As a result, groups of drug addicts have disappeared from the centre. Now people can walk the streets safely without being worried about how they will get home."
He assessed the police action as positive despite the responses it has provoked mainly by the main opposition party. Radical left SYRIZA has argued that captured immigrants are being kept in very poor conditions and some of them have complained that they were victims of beatings.
The Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection has firmly denied the allegations of violations of detainees’ human rights and claimed that the unfounded accusations of SYRIZA’s deputies were not directed at the government but at the state itself.
"I think the police action is in the right direction and it should continue and be permanent. Such actions should not appear as fireworks and then stop, because the situation in the city centre will return to the familiar picture and people will rebel and take the law into their own hands at some point.
The people living in the city centre are not rich; they do not even belong to the petty bourgeoisie. They are poor and they have come to live in the centre because rents are low here. Today, they are the victims of this poor situation, regardless of their age. The people, who choose to live in the centre, because it has always been a charming place and to be close to the subway, theatres, bars, bookshops and beautiful cafes are another category. Moreover, many of these cafes have already closed. Well, this situation cannot continue like this. It is not possible for the city centre to surrender to multinational crime," said the journalist and witness of hundreds of criminal acts.
"Things started getting out of control in the summer of 2008. Until then, things here were completely normal. 10-15 buses began arriving in a day that, bringing immigrants from the border. Everyone knew that there were holes in the borders of Greece and that everyone could move freely and go to Western Europe or stay here. It turned out, however, that they could not leave, because under the Dublin 2 regulation, they had to return here no matter where they had been caught. These people were thus trapped in Athens."
Dimitris Triandafilidis noted that the Greek government is obliged to sort out the immigrants and to grant asylum to those who are entitled to international protection.
"There are two categories of immigrants. The first one includes the people who come from countries where there are hostilities or have been affected by natural disasters. They need and have the right to international assistance and Greece should therefore assume its responsibility based on signed international agreements. There are people coming as economic migrants. They remain trapped in Greece, where there is no work anymore. A dangerous mixture forms in this way that will explode at some point."
However, a small explosion happened yesterday when a group of youths on motorcycles had stabbed a 20-year-old Iraqi more than ten times and killed him in front of a private house of prayer for Muslims. A little earlier, the same people had tried to attack two other immigrants, citizens of Romania and Morocco. "If the police information is accurate, we are talking about neo-Nazis. The police have to prove this and capture them at any cost. It is a matter of honour for the Greek police. Otherwise, it will lose its moral legitimacy to the society."