Tough line on immigration pursued

The bodies of two immigrants who had been trying to enter Greece illegally from Turkey were pulled out of the Evros River yesterday as the government moved ahead with its plan to create reception centers for undocumented migrants at disused army bases and insisted it was within the country’s rights to build a fence on the northeastern border to deter illegal immigration. The two migrants were reported to have been in their 20s but no further information was given about their identities. Authorities said the men died of hypothermia. Members of the European Union border agency’s (FRONTEX) team that are patrolling the border with Turkey also arrested a suspected human trafficker and 16 illegal immigrants in the Evros area yesterday. The news came as Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis submitted an amendment to a bill tabled in Parliament that allows former army bases to be used to house migrants. The draft law itself foresees the creation of an independent asylum service. Greece has some 47,000 outstanding asylum applications and has been heavily criticized for its treatment of refugees. Papoutsis pledged that the handling of applications would improve but said that it was vital for Greece to build new reception centers and a 12.5-kilometer fence on its border with Turkey as well as pursuing a policy of voluntary or forced repatriation. «Greece cannot take any more immigrants and is determined to take all the necessary measures, including constructing a fence in Evros, to protect its borders,» he said. «Our other aim is that not a single illegal immigrant should remain in the country.»