Greece remains a major point of entry to Europe for thousands of undocumented immigrants. The country’s previous government had adopted a series of hard-line policies to tackle the problem, from sweep operations to setting up controversial detention centers.
Greece’s new, leftist government wants to adopt a softer line. Authorities began to evacuate detention centers for illegal migrants, where thousands are held across Greece. CCTV’s Filio Kontrafouri filed this report from Athens.
New Greek government takes softer approach to undocumented migrantsGreece's new, leftist government wants to adopt a softer line. Authorities began to evacuate detention centers for illegal migrants, where thousands are held across Greece. CCTV's Filio Kontrafouri filed this report from Athens.
This is Amigdaleza is Greece’s first, dedicated detention center for undocumented immigrants. It opened in 2012, mostly as a short-term transit point for those awaiting deportation orders. The process was so complex that it rarely worked. As a result, hundreds of migrants got stuck here for months, under conditions that human rights groups have described as inhumane.
“This process that is being followed now is the complete opposite of the one we were following until today, where the basic philosophy was for those violating the law of staying in the country to be detained,” Ioannis Fragkiskos, police brigader general-director of the Aliens Division of Attica. “Right now, (these people) are legalized and can stay for six months in the country.”
Police and social services work around the clock to prepare hundreds of releases. Within three months, Greece’s most infamous detention center for illegal immigrants will become history.
Dozens of migrants have already been freed through this gate. An average of about 20 people will continue to be released every day, until the detention center is emptied.
There are about 30 similar centers across Greece. The government’s plan is to shut them all down. Mohammad Qadeer was just released from one in southern Greece.
“Yesterday and today I went looking for a job. But I didn’t find any,” Qadeer said. “After 2 days, I will go to my former boss, if he can give me a job, it will be okay. If not, after 3-4 months, I’ll look for work in the fields, get some money and then leave.”
Hundreds of migrants cross Greece’s borders illegally every day, mostly from the Middle East and South Asia. According to law, they have to be arrested and prevented from moving to other European destinations, which is their main goal. Greece’s new government wants to set up open reception centers to handle this massive influx.
Greece is financially asphyxiating and the government has yet to explain how these new reception centers will be funded. Moreover, locals disagree with their presence in their communities. Criminologist Eleni Chrisochoou, who specializes in illegal migration, said that Greek society is not yet ready to accept such migrant centers.
“A climate of terror has been created. Everyone thinks that these people are here to make us change our religion, to kill us or rob us,” Chrisochoou said. “These stereotypes are reproduced and create all these complaints and insecurity.”