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Illegal immigration is a European problem, which Greece is trying to resolve on its own

13 April 2012 / 14:04:39  GRReporter
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Illegal immigration turned out to be the second most important focus of the pre-election campaign after the economic crisis and political parties which preach xenophobia and nationalism are enjoying the approval of a substantial proportion of the electorate. Meanwhile, Greek police have launched intense inspections among the foreigners residing in the centre of Athens, and the parliament passed a law establishing temporary detention centres for illegal immigrants. In 2011 alone, about 100,000 people illegally crossed the borders, announced the spokesman of the Greek police Athanasios Kokkalakis in an interview with Maria S. Topalova.

-Mr. Kokkalakis, in recent days, we have seen that the police is checking illegal immigrants in central Athens very carefully. What are the problems associated with illegal immigration, which Greece is currently facing?

- First I would like to emphasize that the centre of Athens now has a more acceptable image than before, thanks to our actions. The major problem in the centre of Athens is the over-crowding of immigrants, mainly economic ones, coming from different countries. This effectively means that people of various nationalities gather in one place, with all their national characteristics and differences. Greek society has never been so used to so many differences, to such a mosaic of cultures focused in one geographical area, which until almost 15 years ago was populated almost exclusively by Greeks. Thus the biggest problem is in the very composition of the population in central Athens. There are various reasons why these people cannot go to another country, which is their main desire or cannot find work because the Greek society and the Greek economy can not handle more work force. They get to the point, I'd say a pretty high percentage of them, when they commit street crimes. They probably do it in order to survive, out of necessity or they get involved in gangs that commit crimes like drug trafficking, prostitution, trafficking of women for prostitution. They join organizations that deal with forgery of certificates, or the issue of false documents in general, in order for some of them to find a way at some point to transfer to other member states of the European Union, which is their main goal. This is also proven by the fact that last year about 100,000 people entered Greece, out of whom only 10% have applied for asylum, i.e. they have applied for international protection by the Greek state. This effectively means that the remaining 90% want to be transferred to other member states of the European Union, mainly in Central Europe.

- Can you describe for us these immigrants - what countries do they come from, how old are they, whether they are educated or not, whether they have any job or not?

- I will try, at least according to data registered at the Greek border. The main areas which they come from are Southeast Asia such as Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh and the countries of North Africa like Algeria, Morocco, Somalia. These are the main nationalities. Then there are some smaller nations with fewer immigrants who come to Greece. In 2011 in Greece there were registered immigrants from 111 nations. In terms of age, these are mostly young people – between 20-30-35 years of age. Nevertheless, there are also older people as well as entire families. Whether they are literate or not, unfortunately, this remains unknown because the moment they enter Greek territory, they destroy all documents that they have, either since they are being instructed by traffickers, or because they themselves want to. They destroy their entire previous life, and come with data that we try to investigate to find out who these people are, where they come from, in order to send them back to the country they came from.

- Why do they choose Greece? As you said the Greek economy can not provide them with work. Why do they choose Greece?

- Unfortunately, and I’m not using that word literally, because Greece is situated at the crossroads of several continents - Europe, Asia and Africa. It is the closest point to the continents, which those mainly economic immigrants come from, and some of them come as refugees. This is the main reason, they see Greece as the first step, in order to be transferred to Europe. They also see it as the most democratic step, to be transferred to Europe.

- What does the Greek government see as a solution?

- Is not serious to think that the problem can be solved only through operating activities, through actions along the border only. What is needed is mainly the cooperation between the countries which they came from, through which they pass and which are the ultimate goal of immigrants. And this must be done within European treaties. And I don’t mean some bilateral agreements between Greece and some other country for example from which immigrants come, but between the European Union as an organization of states and the respective country as we all face the same problem. This problem, which Greece is currently facing is not a national problem It is essentially a European problem, and Greece is now called upon to complete a European deed.

- This idea of ​​establishing centres for immigrants is met by a lot of resistance. Can you tell us exactly what the Greek government wants to do through these centres?

Tags: Athanasios Kokkalakis Greek police illegal immigrants detention centers terrorist organization Maria S. Topalova
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