No removal of addicts at Games time

Responding to reports that the government was thinking of removing people, such as drug addicts, from the streets and interring them in a special detention center during the Olympics, Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis declared yesterday that his ministry would not function as a «dogcatcher of souls.» As Kaklamanis was speaking to a parliamentary committee on the narcotics issue, the Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals (KETHEA) presented figures on the average Greek drug addict, to coincide with the International Day Against Drug Abuse on Saturday. According to KETHEA, the average addict begins smoking hashish at 15 and leaves school at 16. At 18 he or she begins taking pills and at 20 is on heroin. The center’s research on the 1,669 people who came to it for help in 2003 shows that the vast majority (84 percent) are male. Most of them are unemployed and supported by their families. In Parliament, Kaklamanis, a doctor, was responding to a question by PASOK MP Manolis Skoulakis, who wanted to know whether people on society’s margins would be detained during the Games. Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras has described such claims as «science fiction» but questions persist. «We refuse to play the role of a dogcatcher of human souls. Period. I will under no circumstances accept any attempt to hide people for three weeks and then return them to the ‘idyllic’ world in which they live,» Kaklamanis said. The minister described an encounter he had with two young addicts on the steps of the Health Ministry, near the inner-city Vathis Sq. «At 1 a.m., I found two kids sitting on the ministry’s steps, one trying to help the other. The guards hadn’t seen them. When this thing could happen on my ministry’s stairs, I said to myself, ‘You are a zero, Mr Minister. This happens at your ministry and you think you are a minister.’ I spoke with them and found they had tried to break the habit but had returned to it as there was no social rehabilitation,» he said. «I care more about the neighbors on Aristotelous St not seeing what I saw than whether (former IOC President Juan Antonio) Samaranch sees them, because he will not go to Vathis Sq.»