Mayor wants Athens rallies regulated

The time is riper than ever for reforms regulating demonstrations in the city center, Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis told a parliamentary committee investigating the problem of burgeoning illegal immigration in the capital on Tuesday.

Following a string of protests over the past week, some of them violent, Kaminis said he had started drafting a bill that would impose some restrictions on public protests.

?If we want to live in a democratic society, we have to regulate it, for the benefit of the demonstrators but also for citizens, who have the right to freedom of movement, and for businesses, which should not be harmed by the constant occupation of roads and sidewalks,? Kaminis said.

The mayor said the growing population of undocumented immigrants in central Athens was a key reason for the recent upheaval, adding that a census is to be carried out to give authorities an idea of the size of the migrant population.

Initiatives heralded by Kaminis and Prime Minister George Papandreou on Monday foresee the intensification of policing in the city center and incentives for people to live in downtown Athens. The latter will chiefly comprise tax breaks for people willing to relocate to areas such as Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio.

Papandreou on Monday emphasized the importance of these initiatives being launched as soon as possible, noting that ?Athens will sink if it is gripped by violence.? Speaking to Kathimerini on Tuesday, Attica Governor Yiannis Sgouros struck a similar tone, calling for ?specific measures that can be implemented without delay.? A good idea, Sgouros said, would be to ?renovate derelict buildings in the center to house local authority offices.?

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