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Greece to toughen policy on migrants

Greece to toughen policy on migrants

Greece will toughen its policies on illegal immigration to combat a surge in trafficking from Turkey, the country's Interior Ministry said Thursday.
Traffickers will face tougher penalties, and more detention centers will be created allowing authorities to detain illegal immigrants for up to 12 months, up from the current official limit of three months, ministry officials said.
The officials said a sharp increase in illegal immigration had been worsened because Turkey, with which Greece shares a border, was not adequately enforcing an agreement to take back migrants facing deportation from Greece.
In 2008, Greek authorities arrested more than 146,000 illegal immigrants, a 30 percent increase from the previous year and a 54 percent jump from 2006, according to government figures.
"This (situation) can no longer continue," said Christos Markoyiannakis, a minister in charge of police. "Our country has become a warehouse" for illegal immigrants.
Government officials are reportedly considering using old military bases around Greece to create some of the new detention centers.
The measures announced Thursday follow the surge in support for a rightist party in European Parliament elections Sunday, as well as violence May 22 in Central Athens by Muslim immigrants protesting the alleged defacement of a Quran by a Greek policeman.
Earlier this week, police clashed with rival groups of demonstrators near the center of the capital, when local residents tried to block mostly Asian immigrants from entering a public playground.
Markoyiannakis said Greece would urge the European Union to pressure Turkey to take back immigrants who leave its shores and head to nearby Greek islands.
"Without the support of the European Union, what are we supposed to do, go to war with Turkey?" he said. "These people jump into the sea when they see they coast guard. Are we supposed to let them drown?"
Markoyiannakis said tougher penalties for smugglers could act as a stronger deterrent.
"From the beginning of the year, about 600 smuggling suspects have been arrested but none of them are in prison," he said.
"I am under no illusions; we are talking about tens of thousands of people and this problem cannot be resolved in a few months."


Updated : 2021-09-20 04:42 GMT+08:00