The issue of immigration on Thursday moved back to the top of the agenda for the May 6 elections as the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) expressed its support for the mass repatriation of illegal immigrants as a precondition for Athens experiencing an economic recovery.
LAOS was part of the interim government until February, when Greece agreed the terms of its second bailout, but subsequently saw its poll ratings drop to levels that leave the nationalist party in danger of not obtaining any seats in Parliament next month. LAOS has seen some of its support drift to another nationalist party, Independent Greeks, and the neofascist Chrysi Avgi, which announced its election candidates yesterday. The extremist party is polling well above the 3 percent threshold for winning parliamentary seats.
Alarmed by the popularity of the fierce anti-immigration stance of Chrysi Avgi, PASOK and New Democracy have recently backed tougher measures to tackle illegal immigration, such as health checks for migrants and the construction of new reception centers. However, LAOS tried yesterday to strengthen its credentials by advocating the mass deportations.
?There population has to be managed through the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants,? said LAOS spokesman Giorgos Kyrtsos. ?Athens has collapsed as a tourist destination because of illegal immigrants so there cannot be any economic recovery unless hundreds of thousands leave.?
Kyrtsos went on to argue that the next Greek government should negotiate a new haircut with its lenders so that its debt falls to between 100-120 billion euros, or about a third of what it is now.
LAOS is one of several parties that are opposed to the terms of Greece?s new bailout but Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga stressed yesterday that these groups should not be regarded as a united front. She said that the other anti-memorandum parties ?are 100 percent part of the system.?