Conflicting signals for migrants

As Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlo-poulos heralded a multifaceted program aimed at integrating immigrants into Greek society, reports from Patra revealed that hundreds of migrants evicted from a dismantled makeshift settlement were sleeping rough across the western port city. Pavlopoulos yesterday announced a program of social integration for migrants, including Greek language and history lessons for migrant mothers and a public awareness campaign aimed at averting a likely racist backlash against a burgeoning migrant population. The minister also revealed that the European Commission has earmarked 26.2 million euros to help Greece deal with migration. Of this, 3.46 million euros is said to have been set aside for this year, Pavlopoulos said. It was unclear what proportion would go toward the social integration program and what toward plans for the creation of new migrant reception centers, of which the government is said to be planning five. One of these centers is slated for construction in Rio, in the Peloponnese, but the project has stalled due to opposition by local residents. The plan had been for a center in Rio to accommodate hundreds of migrants who had been squatting in a makeshift settlement near the port of Patra until earlier this month when police razed the camp. Now more than 200 migrants, mostly Afghans, are said to be sleeping rough, some near the railway station, others on patches of wasteland. The fate of the migrants in Patra was broached by the Geneva-based Human Rights Watch yesterday. HRW expressed its concern for «several Afghans… now homeless… hiding in abysmal conditions out of fear of being arrested.» It also objected to reports regarding the transfer of a group of migrants from the island of Chios to Evros. «We fear that people are being prevented from seeking asylum… and that migrants are kept in unacceptable detention conditions and possibly even being secretly expelled to Turkey,» said HRW’s Bill Frelick.