Prime Minister George Papandreou and Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis on Monday heralded a series of measures aimed at curbing spiralling crime in the city center and the premier called on his ministers to put their utmost efforts into the project, warning that ?Athens will sink if it is gripped by violence.?
The initiative foresees the intensification of policing in the city center, a crackdown on undeclared labor and incentives for people to live in downtown Athens, an idea that Kaminis had put forward several months ago.
Efforts will also be made to revamp many shabby parts of the center by subsidizing the renovation of derelict buildings, Papandreou said, adding that the creation of pedestrian walkways and cycling paths are in the works. In addition, three new centers are to be built for the rehabilitation of drug addicts.
On the thorny issue of the burgeoning population of undocumented immigrants living in the center, Papandreou said an effort would be made to integrate them into the labor market and to set up special markets where they can legitimately sell goods.
The government is also planning to pursue the revision of the Dublin II Regulation, which dictates that migrants apply for asylum in the first European Union country they enter, increasingly Greece.
Earlier in the day, as Kaminis chaired a council meeting on rising crime in the center, anti-racist demonstrators clashed with far-rightists outside City Hall, leading to the arrest of 20 suspected right-wing extremists.
Kaminis, who also attended Monday?s cabinet meeting, said he had pressed Papandreou to implement tougher measures to curb the influx of illegal immigrants into the capital as ghettos are beginning to spring up in run-down areas and tensions between different social groups are growing.