More immigrant plans lined up

Greece is considering using both floating prisons and old army bases to house undocumented migrants, the government has revealed as its idea of constructing a fence on the Greek-Turkish border to deter illegal immigration continues to attract criticism. Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis revealed on Wednesday after a Cabinet meeting that the government is considering at least a couple of options regarding how to handle the large number of immigrants entering Greece. «We are looking at military facilities that are not being used by the Greek armed forces… to allow humane living conditions for immigrants who enter our country,» he told Mega TV. «There must be some order, Greece can no longer tolerate the situation: 200 to 300 people enter the country every day without papers.» Greece says about 128,000 immigrants arrived in the country illegally last year, the highest figure for any European Union member state. Papoutsis also admitted that the government was looking into the possibility of using floating detention centers to house immigrants who are arrested. «We must review the difficulties, which include the high cost of the transfer of such a vessel and various docking issues.» The Netherlands uses such floating facilities and there have been reports that Greek government officials are due to visit the fellow EU member to gather information about them. Papoutsis’s proposals come just a few days after he announced plans to build a 12.5-kilometer fence near the Evros River in northeastern Greece, which he suggested would prevent some illegal immigrants from entering the country. However, human rights groups and labor unions have slammed the plan. The civil servants’ union ADEDY and a group called United Against Racism and the Fascist Threat have called a rally for Saturday, January 15 to protest against the fence’s construction. «When we heard about the fence, it evoked memories of concentration camps,» said City of Athens councilor and protest organizer Petros Constantinou. «The government is talking about stopping illegal immigrants getting into the country when some of these people are refugees who warrant international protection.» «They are trying to turn the Greek worker against migrants by claiming that they are stealing his bread,» said ADEDY board member Despina Spanou. «It is not true.» Turkey’s Minister for European Union Affairs Egemen Bagis said Ankara was not worried by the plans for a fence but doubts it will be effective. «The decision to construct a fence on the Greek-Turkish border is not an act aimed at Turkish citizens,» he said. «But it is not a solution, it will just move the problem somewhere else.»