Police start sweeping Athens of migrants

Police intensified their sweeps targeting undocumented migrants and illegal street vendors in central Athens on Wednesday as authorities continued efforts to designate sites for temporary detention centers where migrants without papers are to be kept before being deported or, in a tiny percentage of cases, granted asylum.

A crackdown by police outside the premises of Athens University Law School and the Athens University of Economics and Business resulted in the arrest of 21 illegal street vendors, all immigrants.

Officers also evicted 26 undocumented migrants from a half-derelict building on central Marni Street and detained a foreign national alleged to have been charging the migrants rent to live in the squat.

Sources told Kathimerini that police are to continue with their crackdown, adding that they have been instructed by their superiors to eliminate the illegal street trade in the city center within a week.

During a meeting of top police officials chaired by Citizens? Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis on Wednesday, it was decided that the ranks of the police would be boosted immediately with 200 special guards who have just completed their training. The aim is for an extra 1,100 officers to join the motorcycle-riding rapid-reaction squad DIAS soon.

Regarding the designation of new detention centers for illegal migrants — of which Chrysochoidis pledged to create 30 in the next two years — the matter was discussed with officials mulling a list of 13 disused military facilities.

Apart from one site near Kozani, northern Greece, where residents are already protesting, officials are also considering facilities near Thessaloniki, as well as Diavata, Florina and Skydra, also in northern Greece, and Katsimidi, north of Athens.

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