31 October, 2007
The Greek government on Tuesday reiterated its call for a “coordinated and comprehensive” effort by the European Union to deal with the issue of illegal immigration, with Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos outlining Athens’ positions in a letter to the president of the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee.
“It is clear that control and management of this phenomenon (illegal immigration) has a European dimension, and affects us all … in the face of this reality, however, the Greek government is pushing forth with major and sincere efforts in order to deal with the problem, whereas the Greek taxpayer is burdened with huge expenditures, which, in reality, correspond to all European taxpayers,” Pavlopoulos’ letter read.
The Greek minister said the country’s borders with non-EU states, and in a region where peace is threatened, result in waves of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the east Mediterranean nation's borders, and by extension, western Europe.
In quoting figures, Pavlopoulos cited the arrest of 13,151 illegals in September alone, of which 2,777 were intercepted in the southern and northern Aegean.
Regarding the number of political asylum requests fielded by the Greek government, an issue over which Athens has come under sharp criticism in previous years, Pavlopoulos cited a 35-percent increase in the number of applicants in Greece, as opposed to a decrease of 15 percent Europe-wide.
Finally, the top Greek minister, whose portfolio now includes the public order sector, said “Greece is now expecting a substantive response from Turkey within the framework of a bilateral (repatriation of illegal immigrants) agreement between relevant authorities, as well as the timely drafting of an EU-Turkey repatriation agreement ... It is particularly troubling that no essential progress has been made in negotiations (between Europe and Turkey,” he underlined.
Gov't responds to NGO's allegations of mistreatment of illegal migrants
The government on Tuesday announced that it has ordered a first instance administrative investigation into a handful of particularly vicious allegations of mistreatment of illegal immigrants by coast guard personnel.
The allegations, made by the German NGO “Pro Asyl”, received a fair amount of press coverage in the local press on Tuesday, with one centre-left daily, in fact, featuring the group’s report as its front-page article.
In a press conference, Merchant Marine & Island Policy Minister George Voulgarakis, whose portfolio includes the Greek coast guard, said he read the report and subsequently ordered the preliminary non-judicial probe.
“It is obvious that such behavior, if indeed it existed, does not reflect the Greek coast guard … Moreover, according to official figures, the coast guard rescued 1,521 illegal immigrants in various operations, a number that corresponds to 21 percent of the total of illegals entering our country,” Voulgarakis, the former public order minister, said.
Finally, the minister said that the strictest possible reprimands will be leveled if the allegations - including physical violence and humiliation - are proved true.
Greece’s numerous islands in the eastern Aegean, most facing the opposite Turkish coast, have been inundated by waves of mostly Third World illegal immigrants in recent months, with most of the migrants attempting to cross over from Turkey on flimsy boats or inflatable dinghies.
Source: Athens News Agency