Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greece proposes to use former military bases as detention centers for illegal immigrants

(DW) As elections approach in Greece, politicians argue that immigrants are behind higher crime rates and public health problems. But rights groups say the campaign rhetoric is a cheap ploy to win votes.

The so-called Integration Law, proposed by Minister for Citizen Protection Michalis Chrisohoidis, raised a furor by calling for illegal immigrants to be held in former military bases until deportation.

Chrisochoidis, a member of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement party, was opposed to the plan as a member of the opposition in 2009, but he has now won the approval of the Greek parliament.

He called for 30 facilities to hold refugees, which would officially be called "closed hospitality centers," and suggested using 250 million euros ($328 million) of EU funding for border protection to build the centers.

"Whoever [illegally] enters the country will be given hospitality and will be immediately asked to return home," Chrisohoidis said at a news conference at the end of March. "Unless they are refugees ... in which case they have a sacred right to asylum."

According to officials, some 100,000 people were arrested for illegal entry or residence in Greece in 2011 and authorities are processing about 30,000 asylum requests.