Amnesty raps Greece over migrant roundups

Greece’s government announced late Monday plans to hold illegal immigrants in indefinite detention if they are considered a risk to public health — drawing sharp criticism from the human rights group Amnesty International, which called the proposals «deeply alarming.”

In draft legislation submitted to parliament, the government requested backing from lawmakers to hold immigrants in detention for compulsory health checks and treatment for HIV/AIDS and other contagious ailments.

Greece, which is due to hold a general election in late April or early May, is the European Union’s busiest transit point for illegal immigrants.

Last week, the government launched police roundups of illegal immigrants in Athens, with hundreds of people being subjected daily to street stops by police.

Authorities are also planning to convert 30 old army bases to serve as immigrant detention centers, each housing 1,000 people.

“Under the proposed amendments, the law will foresee the right to detain non-nationals — whether they have applied for political asylum or not — if they pose a risk to public health,» the authors of the bill submitted late Monday wrote.

Immigrants liable for detention, it said, pose a risk «because they have contracted an infectious disease, or because they belong to groups vulnerable to such diseases, like intravenous drug users, persons involved in (prostitution) or people who reside in conditions that do not meet the elementary standards of hygiene.”

The document was signed by Greece’s ministers of finance, health and public order.

“The subjects … will be submitted to compulsory health examinations and corresponding treatments,» it said. «Treatment areas will be subject to detention regulations for the period that the reasons for their detention apply.”

The law is due to be put to the vote in parliament before April 11.

The government argues that it has little choice other than to take tougher measures, estimating that more than a million illegal immigrants live in Greece, which has an official population of about 11 million.

But the London-based organization Amnesty International urged Greece not to go ahead with the new proposals.

“These deeply alarming measures specifically target the most vulnerable people based on discriminatory criteria,» Amnesty International’s Jezerca Tigani said in a statement.

“The Greek authorities must withdraw such measures immediately, which will only exacerbate the stigmatization of migrants and asylum-seekers in the country.» [AP]