A not-so-clean sweep

ACCORDING to Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, “whoever illegally enters the country will be shown hospitality and be immediately asked to return home”.
The minister’s statement must be taken with a pinch of salt, particularly in a country with such a poor record of processing asylum applications. This wasn’t the first time such intentions were announced. In May, his predecessor Christos Papoutsis also said he would create 14 reception centres to house undocumented migrants. The decision was never implemented.
And with TV crews invited to attend as police this week conducted another sweep of migrants in central Athens, it’s hard not to view it as a pre-election publicity stunt.
Chrysochoidis himself has a lot to gain after his ratings plummeted last month when he admitted that he had not read the bailout deal that Greece signed to avoid bankruptcy.
The extreme right has thrived on the anger of disgruntled residents of the inner city, which in part has been overtaken by immigrants - lots of them regularly bussed down to Athens by local authorities in northern Greece.
Many of the same authorities are now refusing to host detention centres, arguing that the capital’s problems should not be allowed to spill into their regions.
Few seem to be concerned with the plight of the immigrants themselves who are being moved around like pawns on a political chessboard. Whether there are one million undocumented migrants in this country, as claimed by Greek authorities, or 470,000, according to the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (Eliamep), is beside the point if their well-being cannot be guaranteed.
The government has announced its intention to create 30 so-called reception centres to hold roughly 30,000 immigrants. But will these installations be proper reception centres or “concentration camps”, as described by the Greek Communist Party?
After the economy, illegal immigration is perhaps the most pressing problem Greece faces. And it must be tackled efficiently and decisively because it has caused a huge strain on the residents. But this cannot be done at the expense of our humanity. Most illegal immigrants left their homes and families hoping for a better tomorrow. They deserve to be treated with respect.

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