NEWS

Plan for migrant units, returns

Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos is expected to take advantage of today’s Cabinet meeting to propose the creation of temporary reception centers for the capital’s burgeoning population of illegal immigrants in disused military camps on the outskirts of Attica as well as closer cooperation with foreign embassies to arrange the repatriation of migrants where necessary, Kathimerini has learned. According to sources, a chartered aircraft left Athens for Islamabad late last night with an undetermined number of Pakistani migrants aboard. Apart from the sensitive issue of possible deportations, Pavlopoulos is also expected to broach the controversial issues of the construction of a mosque and cemetery for the capital’s Muslims. Also on the agenda is the intensification of police sweeps in central Athens, where hundreds of illegal immigrants live in filthy squats and are drawn into crime rings, and the recruitment of hundreds more border guards to keep out additional would-be migrants. The news came following a tense Tuesday night in the central Athens district of Aghios Panteleimonas where self-styled anarchists clashed with residents alleged to have locked the entrance to a local park, ostensibly to keep immigrants out. According to police, locals tried to intervene when a group of the protesters turned up and tried to break a padlock on the gate to the park. A scuffle broke out between the two sides though no injuries were reported. Later that night, the self-styled anarchists clashed with riot police, who had been dispatched to the area to restore order, leading to five arrests. The large population of immigrants, mostly from Afghanistan, living in Aghios Panteleimonas has led to escalating tensions in the area in recent months, with many residents calling for the foreigners to be removed and supporters of extreme-right groups taking advantage of the situation. A makeshift mosque in the area was torched at the end of last month.