Greece aims to stop flow of migrants

Faced with reports that up to 300,000 illegal immigrants may be planning to sneak across the Evros River border from Turkey this summer, the government yesterday decided on a series of measures to prevent such an influx. «Greece is not a country with open borders. Our country and our society have reached their limit,» government spokesman Christos Protopappas said after a Cabinet meeting that had focused on the problem. This echoed comments by Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis earlier this week that with 700,000 legally registered immigrants, Greece can take no more. The Cabinet yesterday decided on three points. The first is to ensure humane conditions for about 3,000 illegal immigrants who have been detained in the northeastern border province of Thrace. Second, these people will be sent back to their countries of origin. Third, land and sea borders will be guarded more strictly so as to prevent an influx by other immigrants. This policy will demand greater cooperation between Greek authorities, as well as their reinforcement. The problem will also have to be dealt with within the framework of the European Union (as it is likely that Greece will ask for funds) and a new approach with Turkey, so that Greece’s neighbor will enforce a prior bilateral agreement aimed at preventing immigrants from sneaking into Greece. Protopappas did not explain how immigrants would be pushed back. «I cannot provide technical details. The political decision is for cooperation between all competent authorities, so that no more illegal immigrants can enter our northern borders.» Protopappas said that negotiations with Turkey will first be conducted by foreign ministers and then by the special joint committee of senior state officials whose formation was foreseen by the prior agreement. «There will be full cooperation with the Turkish side so that the agreement that has been signed can be adhered to fully,» Protopappas said. Last week, EU leaders at the Seville summit discussed and rejected a proposal to threaten third countries with economic sanctions if they do not do enough to prevent illegal immigration into the EU.

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