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Illegal immigrants to be sent near Kozani within a month

23 March 2012 / 18:03:01  GRReporter
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Victoria Mindova

The residents of the northern Greek municipalities of Kozani and Voio are shocked and panicking after hearing about the government decision to send over a thousand criminals - illegal immigrants - for detention in an old barracks building in the area. The idea was born this week as part of a government campaign to tackle widespread crime in Athens, which has recently been associated mainly with criminal gangs of illegal foreigners.

The conflict around the issue of illegal immigrants in Greece has flared up again after the Minister of Citizens Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis said he would clear Athens of crime and illegal immigrants living in the country. Most often, these people come from North African and Arab countries and enter the country through the channels of trafficking by crossing the eastern border of Greece. The areas where they live in the capital, most often are associated with high crime rates and local people note that the situation has dramatically deteriorated since 2008.

GRReporter contacted Panagiota Orfanidou who is the Mayor of Voio, where the camp for illegal immigrants is expected to be organised next month, according to the plan of the Ministry of Citizens Protection. She described her meeting with Minister Chrysochoidis as "ineffective and inefficient," at which officials from the affected regions entered into a dialogue on the topic of immigrant camps.

"We have found no understanding by the Minister and his position remains firm: we will realize the plan whether local municipalities want it or not." He refused to accept our position and warned that those who oppose it will be brought before a prosecutor," said Orfanidou. She is determined to defend the position supported by the local residents and in any way, will try to block the transfer of illegal immigrants from the Athenian streets to the old barracks between Kozani and Voio.

The greatest concerns of the local community are related to the security of the population after the establishment of the planned temporary detention centre for illegal immigrants. The people who will be transported there are often criminals, do not speak the language or are drug addicts. The Ministry gave assurances that the former barracks will be strictly guarded by police. The local residents, however, do not believe these promises.

"The policy applied in the last two years resulted in the premature release or retirement of many members of police forces in our area," said Orfanidou. She stressed that currently, the state and municipal governments have no resources to appoint additional staff, which means that no one can guarantee the security of citizens in the area when the centre is open. No less serious remains the question about the capacity of the old barracks to accommodate a thousand people, since it is suitable for not more than 250 people. "We need to think about the conditions in which the people deported in this centre will be forced to exist. It will violate the human rights of migrants, who will live in outrageous conditions unsuitable for so many people."

Asked if local communities are willing to accept the centre if there is adequate infrastructure and security is guaranteed, Panagiota Orfanidou said, "This cannot happen for 20 days, as is the plan of Chrysochoidis. Everything is done for election purposes by taking hasty decisions and making loud promises in the name of more electoral votes. We will not allow ourselves to become victims of political manipulation and we will fight with all means - in court and with protests."

Panagiota Orfanidou is not totally against the establishment of a temporary detention centre for illegal immigrants, but she insists that it cannot work in its current state. She and the municipality represented by her require the government to make a proper management programme for illegal immigrants, because otherwise, the problem will not be solved and will only spread and get worse.



Tags: SocietyPoliticsIllegal immigrationCrimeGreeceKozani
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