NEWS

Alarm at illegal immigration

Unseaworthy craft with rusted hulls trying to steer clear of coast guard patrols make regular journeys across the Mediterranean to Europe bearing desperate people who just might be lucky enough to survive the journey if the ship does not sink or they don’t die of hardships suffered during the crossing. Illegal immigrants arrive almost daily in Greece using every possible means. The long sea borders and the difficulty in patrolling them only exacerbate the problem. Meanwhile, illegal immigration is one of the European Union’s most pressing problems in its commitment to guarantee its citizens «justice, freedom and security.» At this stage, Greece is having to deal with the issue on two levels – as one of the member states on the EU’s external borders which are under great pressure, and as current president of the EU. Recently, during a presentation of the Greek presidency’s priorities for justice and internal affairs, Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis pointed to the need for a common EU policy on issues of asylum and the joint management of external borders and the flow of immigrants. External border management is considered of utmost importance to Greece because although the entry of illegal immigrants occurs at one section of the EU’s external borders, it affects the entire Union as the immigrants are heading toward all member states. Therefore, joint patrols of maritime borders are expected to begin soon. According to official statistics, 14,454 illegal immigrants and 344 human traffickers were arrested between 2000 and 2002. The authorities also seized 216 boats and road vehicles used in these operations.