Minister: EC to fund center for migrants

Citizens? Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis on Wednesday reassured members of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels that the first of a series of detention centers for undocumented immigrants would be up and running next week, though a dispute between his ministry and another appeared to put those plans in jeopardy.

The center in Amygdaleza, northwest of Athens, will be operational ?within three or four days and certainly before the elections,? Chrysochoidis said, referring to snap polls on May 6.

The minister said the European Commission had agreed to fund the center, the first of 30 Greece plans to set up over the next two years. The Commission ?is positively disposed toward buying specially equipped prefabricated buildings, funding the renovation of 200 containers and covering the center?s operational cost,? he said.

Back in Athens, however, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Makis Voridis said the containers on the site are destined for people who have lost their homes in natural disasters such as earthquakes and cannot be used to house migrants. In a letter to Chrysochoidis, Voridis said, ?I do not consent to their requested use by your ministry.? Meanwhile, sources told Kathimerini that Voridis?s deputy, Yiannis Magriotis, said in a letter to Chrysochoidis?s deputy, Manolis Othonas, that a payment of 6 million euros from the Development Ministry would be needed to concede the containers.

None of the above was discussed in Brussels. But Chrysochoidis faced criticism for the detention conditions of migrants in Greece. He responded that illegal immigration into Greece has been relentless and blamed Turkey for failing to respect a bilateral treaty for the repatriation of undocumented migrants. ?How are we supposed to protect our borders? It?s impossible if your neighbor is constantly throwing women and children at your doorstep,? he said.