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Twice as many illegal immigrants are willing to voluntarily return to their countries

09 August 2012 / 17:08:02  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The Greek police resumed a week ago the measures against illegal immigrants in central Athens. The authorities announce every day how many immigrants have been caught and how many of them have no documents for legal residence in the country. Today they showed a video of the inspection of one of the early trains that brings dozens of immigrants directly from Evros every day.

Sources from the Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection told GRReporter, that the actions would continue. "They will start procedures for the voluntary return of illegal immigrants to their countries. The number of those willing to return is constantly growing. We believe that soon the situation in central Athens will change completely."

The programme for voluntary return of illegal immigrants in Greece, however, has been running since last year and the local office of the International Organization for Migration is responsible for its implementation. GRReporter contacted the head of the mission Daniel Esdras, who indicated that the number of people wishing to leave crisis-pressed Greece is constantly increasing.

"The number of applications for voluntary return of migrants has doubled since the start of the programme last year. Many people come to our offices and seek our help to return to their countries.

The reasons are several: It has become very difficult to move to other European countries, which is their main goal, after the introduction of strict measures at the ports of Patras and Igoumenitsa. Moreover, the crisis has deprived them of even the low wages they received some years ago. As a result, nine out of ten immigrants are living on the streets; they cannot make a living and feel entrapped here.

Our programme gives them the opportunity to return to their countries in a secure and dignified manner. I.e. they return without handcuffs, with laissez-passer and 300 euro in their pockets, which we provide to help them get back on their feet in their homelands, at least initially. Before they leave, we inform them of the situation there. The documents for their return are issued in cooperation with the embassies of the countries in Athens."

Daniel Esdras said the coordination with the diplomatic missions of immigrants’ countries is successful precisely because it is about a voluntary return. In an interview for GRReporter some months ago, the Greek police spokesman at that time Athanasios Kokkalakis had stated that public authorities face no problems in the extradition of nationals whose governments have signed agreements with the receiving countries. "People come to us voluntarily. They know that if they do not declare their real name and birthplace they will not be able to return. And the embassy of the respective country cannot prevent its citizens from returning home."

The majority of immigrants are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq and Morocco. Sometimes some of them are children, whose parents perished on the road or who just leave to seek better fortune before the age of majority. For them, the procedure is much more specific. "The first condition is the child’s will to return. The second one is the consent of the prosecutor for minors, who has custody of them, according to Greek law. We send details of the child to the office of our organization in the relevant country with the request to find their parents or legal guardian. They, in turn, should express written consent to the return of the child, indicating that they will take responsibility for the child. The procedure is long and complicated, and if these people are not found the child cannot go."




The head of the mission of the International Organization for Migration in Greece Daniel Esdras



The European Commission funds 75 per cent of the costs of the voluntary return programme and the remaining 25 per cent are secured by the Greek State. The organization recognizes that illegal immigration is a serious problem and has made recommendations for its resolving in a more efficient manner.

Tags: PoliticsSocietyIllegal immigrationProgramme for voluntary returnInternational Organization for Migration
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