Government officials said the plan is imperative to meet European Union mandates to keep out illegal aliens. But critics said the sweep is a campaign ploy because anti-immigrant right wing parties are soaring in the polls.
EurasiaReview (H/T Susan K) Many of the immigrants to Greece are from Africa — as well as the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan — and settle in the seedy Omonia Square area, where many hotels have closed because of the crime level. Many Greeks blame them for the once-attractive tourist area turning into a rotary of prostitution, open drug dealing, and human trafficking.
The Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIMEP) estimates there are 1.1 million immigrants in Greece’s population of 11 million. About 400,000 are believed to be illegals.
Citizens Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said he had to react because Greece was facing ejection from the EU’s Schengen zone, which allows open access between borders unless the country policed its borders tighter. He said with so many illegal aliens — about 57,000 were recorded last year by the EU’s FRONTEX border patrol trying to sneak into Greece — the country is hard-pressed to handle the influx. “Whoever [illegally] enters the country will be given hospitality and will be immediately asked to return home,” Chrysohoidis said at a news conference.
(Typical Leftie) Professor Thomas Maloutas, vice president of the National Centre for Social Research in Athens, called the roundup appalling. “It will not solve any problem,” he told SETimes. “Whenever a country tries to solve social problems with police force and detention, what is usually created is more tension, more conflict and more arguments for extremist parties.” (That’s the idea, put the conservative parties in power)
Mayor George Kaminis, like other mayors before him, was under fire to clear the area and the police sweep coincided with his idea to renovate the city’s centre. Police also have gone after immigrants selling counterfeit goods and evicted squatters from abandoned buildings. As he walked through Omonia, George Papaikoyou, 32, a corrections officer in a Greek prison, said he was glad so many immigrants had been arrested — 500 in one day alone recently. “They must send them back,” he said.
Greece’s has two major parties, the New Democracy conservatives and PASOK socialists. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said “Our cities have been taken over by illegal aliens. We have to reclaim them.” Even those born in Greece and now second-generation citizens should have their rights reviewed, he said.