Bid to tackle needs of immigrants

Municipal authorities in Athens yesterday heralded the creation of a migrant council to tackle the needs of immigrants living in the capital, as the European Commission promised Greece 148 million euros to boost the management of its borders and crack down on illegal immigration. Meanwhile, migrants and members of leftist groups marked World Migration Day by protesting outside Parliament to express their discontent with the barriers and problems faced by immigrants. The rally was smaller than the student demonstration earlier in the day and was not marred by violence. The council of migrants, which will comprise 49 representatives from seven city districts and have Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis as its chair, is to convene for the first time next month. It aims to have drafted a «migrant charter» by the middle of next year, officials said. «The municipality’s goal is to consistently improve migrant services and develop targeted social integration programs aimed at promoting the harmonious coexistence of all citizens,» City Hall said in a statement. Athens Prefect Yiannis Sgouros, who has complained about the «ghettoization» of immigrants in the capital’s historic center, sent a different message on World Migration Day. He stressed that refugees fleeing war zones should receive special treatment. But he added that the influx of new would-be migrants into the country was partly due to Turkey’s failure to hold up its side of a bilateral repatriation agreement and called on the government to press the European Commission on this issue. Meanwhile in Piraeus, Deputy Interior Minister Thanassis Nakos inaugurated a «one-stop shop» where immigrants will be able to apply for the renewal of their residence permits. «This initiative will simplify the bureaucracy that migrants have been living with to date,» Nakos said.

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