Migrant arrests a burden

A number of senior police officers in Attica and other parts of Greece have written to their superiors to draw attention to the fact that a recent clampdown on illegal immigrants in the center of Athens has resulted in holding cells at police stations around the capital becoming overcrowded, Sunday’s Kathimerini has learned. Sources said that in July alone, 2,550 undocumented migrants were arrested in Athens. The police holding cells in Attica only have room for several hundred suspects. As a result, some migrants have been transferred to regional police stations, which are also now reporting cramped conditions. In their letters to police chiefs, the officers highlight that the migrants are being kept in unhygienic and unsafe conditions. They fear that a recent change in the law that allows illegal immigrants to be kept in custody for six rather than three months will only make the situation worse. The Interior Ministry has been made aware of the situation, sources said, and is attempting to speed up the construction of three new reception centers in Aspropyrgos, west of Athens, in Ritsona, near Halkida, and in Evros, northeastern Greece. Sources at the ministry said that the Ritsona center could be ready in October, although local officials and residents have vowed to keep up protests against its construction. Authorities aim to have the other two centers ready by the end of the year. Each camp is expected to house some 2,500 people. A plan to build another center in the Keramoti area of Kavala, northern Greece, has run into problems due to opposition by residents. Meanwhile, police sources indicated that the repeated operations to clear migrants that have been squatting in abandoned buildings has led to some of the immigrants simply moving to other parts of the city center. The undocumented migrants who left the old appeals court building on Socratous Street in June, for instance, are now thought to be living around Koumoundourou Square. A number of migrants have also left the Aghios Panteleimonas district, where some residents and extremists have rallied against their presence, only to relocate around Attikis Square.