NEWS

Plan to clear city center of migrants

As the news broke yesterday of government plans to transfer hundreds of illegal immigrants squatting in abandoned buildings in the city center to a disused military facility west of Athens, police said they were intensifying a crackdown on drug dealing and other crimes in the heart of the capital. Sources said the Interior Ministry is eyeing an old NATO base in Aspropyrgos as the site of a reception center for hundreds of migrants currently living in cramped and filthy old buildings in Athens’s historic center. The site would also be the new home to dozens of migrants crammed into the old premises of the Athens appeals court on Socratous Street. But there seem to be objections to the scheme. The Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation (KED) reportedly wants the site for the construction of a new jail. Local authorities told Kathimerini that they opposed both eventualities. «We will not allow the construction of a jail or a detention center. Such a move would downgrade Aspropyrgos which has enough problems,» the prefect of western Attica, Aristidis Arkoudaris, said. Sources said that two other prospective sites for the migrant center had been considered but were not believed to be «appropriate.» In a related development police said officers had been given orders to carry out a series of sweeps aimed at arresting suspects linked to drug dealing, prostitution and extortion in the city center. «Our aim is to eradicate the ghettos where criminals feel safe and the only way to do this is by intensifying raids,» a senior police official said. Since mid-March there have been three large-scale sweeps in the area involving 400 officers. Yesterday a dawn raid in the area led to the arrest of 16 foreign nationals.