Police and coast guard officers in Igoumenitsa on Thursday evacuated about a hundred undocumented immigrants from a makeshift camp at the northwestern port that the migrants had been using as a launch pad to sneak onto ferries to Italy.
Another 150 or so migrants eluded arrest in Thursday’s dawn raid, fleeing into the nearby mountains.
A total of 1,000 would-be migrants from African and Asian countries have been arrested in Igoumenitsa over the past two months in a series of police sweeps. Authorities have said that all the migrants will be deported except for those meriting refugees status though it remained unclear where they will stay until their deportation.
Officers on Thursday razed around 250 huts and tents that had been set up around the port and local authorities disinfected the area.
Igoumenitsa Mayor Giorgos Katsinos said the cleanup of the camp, which sprang up earlier this year, had become crucial as the hot weather and mounting garbage produced by camp residents were posing a public health risk. Also, the negligence of camp members had resulted in fires breaking out on nearby forestland, Katsinos said, adding that there had been frequent disputes between migrants and residents whose tolerance was dwindling.
Local authorities also have voiced concern about the visual impact of the migrants’ camp on tourists arriving at the port.
Meanwhile in the western port of Patra, residents staged a pre-emptive protest, anticipating a new influx of migrants into their port city in the wake of the Igoumenitsa operation. Hundreds of would-be migrants have been camping on the fringes of the western port for years although a large police raid in the summer of 2009 razed the biggest settlement.