clandestina

Migration and Struggle in Greece

Money for detention centers until “screening centers” come…

Posted by clandestina on 27 December 2009

source: athens news

THE GOVERNMENT has announced it will pay back all the money spent last year by the country’s border prefectures – including Samos, Lesvos, Chios, Chania and the Dodecanese – to maintain and operate the detention centres for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers. The prefectures have accrued some 8.5 million euros in debt.

The decision was announced by Deputy Interior Minister Theodora Tzakri during a meeting with the prefects in Athens on December 7.

“We are very pleased with the minister’s announcement,” Manolis Karlas, prefect of the island of Samos, which lies just off the coast of Turkey, told the Athens News immediately following the meeting. “She promised we would receive all the money owed by the end of the year. A first instalment will be paid next week. This money has been spent to feed and clothe the migrants and to pay for their transportation to Athens.”

Karlas, like the other prefects, is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the detention centres for illegal migrants.

“We have about 80 [migrants] on the island today,” he explained. “But during the summer months the number exceeds 800. And they all need food, clothes and shoes. We feed them three times a day. All this costs money.”

He and the other prefects informed Tzakri that the current situation has forced them to shop on credit and run up huge debts with local merchants.

The number of migrants sneaking into Greece has skyrocketed in the past few years. Official data compiled by Greece’s interior ministry show more than 146,000 migrants were arrested for entering the country illegally in 2008. This is more than double the number recorded three years ago. The government has repeatedly stressed the need for more EU help.

To provide a permanent solution, the Pasok government is planning to transform migrant detention centres into so-called screening centres, where undocumented migrants and asylum seekers will stay for only a few days as their status is being decided. A similar system exists in other European Union countries.

This is a major detour in policy pursued by the former New Democracy government, which had announced the creation of dozens of additional migrant detention centres across the country. It had planned to transform dozens of disused military facilities into detention centres and to detain undocumented migrants for as long as a year or until they were deported.

However, the conditions at many of the country’s existing migrant detention centres have been harshly criticised by representatives of local and international human rights groups, and the current government itself.

During a visit of the overcrowded facility on the island of Lesvos, Spyros Vouyias, the deputy minister for the protection of citizens, condemned the condition of the overcrowded facility on the island of Lesvos and ordered its immediate closure last month.

Using language surprisingly harsh for a cabinet member, he told reporters that conditions there were “appalling, inhuman, a violation of basic human rights”.

Last week, the government announced plans to overhaul existing asylum legislation in order to increase the number of people who may secure refugee status. Greece currently has the lowest rate of refugee recognition in Europe. According to Michalis Chrysohoidis, the citizen protection minister, it is currently 0.03 percent.

Chrysohoidis has also announced that the police will no longer be the sole decision-maker on asylum applications. This will be assigned to a new committee of government officials, legal experts and members of non-governmental organisations. As many as 40,000 asylum applications are currently pending.

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