City center clear-out being stepped up

Police officers and municipal workers moved in to clear migrants and drug addicts out of yet another abandoned building in the center of Athens yesterday, as Interior Ministry sources said that such operations will continue for some time. Yesterday’s cleanup, which included the disinfection of the interior of the building, took place at what had formerly been the Apollon Hotel, on the corner of Deligiorgi and Pireos streets. The building had been left vacant for some 15 years and had recently been taken over by squatters. Authorities estimate that between 100 and 150 drug users and migrants had been living or congregating in the building. «Following the request of the mayor of Athens [Nikitas Kaklamanis] and a prosecutor’s ruling, municipal teams proceeded to clean up the building today since efforts to find its owners proved fruitless,» said Deputy Mayor Andreas Papadakis who is responsible for security issues. Police officers found 22 people in the building, one of whom was arrested. It was not clear what happened to the others. This was the latest such operation in the center of Athens, after migrants were removed from three buildings last week and the old appeals court on Socratous Street was cleared out in June. The City of Athens said that it has «intervened» in about 50 buildings this summer and will carry out another 10 cleanups this month. Interior Ministry sources said that there are about 100 such buildings in the city center. Authorities hope that the police will not be needed to help remove squatters from all of them since word of mouth will lead to some people leaving voluntarily rather than facing arrest. Ministry sources said that as of the end of this month, police patrols will also be stepped up in areas of Athens that have experienced rising crime. Some 1,500 extra policemen will be available at that time after finishing their training and this will create the necessary manpower to conduct more so-called «sweep» operations such as the one in central Athens on Thursday afternoon that led to 52 people being arrested.