First migrant detention center opens despite protests

A detention center for undocumented immigrants in Amygdaleza, northwest of Athens, started operating on Sunday, despite vehement protests by local residents and rights groups, with the transfer of dozens of migrants detained over the past few days in police sweeps in central Athens.

Police said they transfered a group of 56 migrants in the early afternoon and were to move another 164 into the compound late last night.

Meanwhile residents staged a protest against the center outside the police training school which is adjacent to the facility.

According to Citizens? Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, a total of 1,200 migrants are to be moved into the center until mid-May. Then additional centers are to open in different parts of the country, according to the minister, who insists that this project will solve Greece?s problem with illegal immigration.

The minister noted, in a posting on his Twitter account Sunday, that the opening of the first facility was a success. ?With Amygdaleza we have proven that a government can and should work even a few days before elections,? he said. In a separate posting on Facebook he expressed conviction that local residents would accept the center once they see how it operates.

Last week the minister had brushed off objections of local residents to the project, noting that security concerns were not an issue due to the proximity of the police training school to the facility.

In a related development, a spokeswoman for the Doctors Without Borders aid group complained about the health checks being conducted by joint teams of police officers and health officials on undocumented immigrants living in crowded apartments in central Athens. ?Public health cannot be safeguarded through police-led inspections and through scaremongering,? the head of the group?s Greek office, Reveka Papadopoulou, said.