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The funds allocated to combat illegal immigration are not used effectively

30 October 2014 / 18:10:32  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The funds allocated to combat illegal immigration in Greece are not used effectively, resulting in the failure to achieve the ultimate goal, namely the return of immigrants to their countries of origin. This is the conclusion of the research programme "Midas" conducted by researchers at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy ELIAMEP, which presents the immigration policy of Greece in the period 2008-2013.

The data show that the largest sum of the money was spent on detaining immigrants in centres and not on their repatriation. Over the course of those five years, Greece had received at least 432 million euro in the form of direct funding to combat illegal immigration. The management of the immigrant population cost Greece, the European Union, Frontex and the European Economic Area more than 500 million euro but only 15% of that amount was used for the asylum system, 30% for the policies to return immigrants to their countries of origin and 55% for guarding the external borders of Europe.

"What should be clear is that the majority of the immigrants are people who will never return. They are either people who are entitled to international protection and Greece is obliged to provide it to them, or have sold all their possessions to be able to pay smugglers to bring them to Europe and therefore they have no place to return to. There is also a problem with their traditions, according to which those who return are a disgrace to their families in the community," said Daphne Angeli, a member of the research group. "Measures must be taken much earlier if the goal is to reduce immigration flows, including the implementation of campaigns in the countries of origin of immigrants. They should be aware of what awaits them if they arrive in Europe in this way and they should not rely on false information obtained by smugglers," she added.

Detaining immigrants in centres seems to be an extremely ineffective measure on which a lot of money was spent. "From August to December 2012, only 4,000 out of a total of 60,000 immigrants inspected in central Athens had no documents. Funds were put into the operation "Xenios Diaz" that did not achieve the ultimate goal either."

The survey data show that 20 million euro were spent on the construction of detention centres. Subsistence costs per immigrant amounted to 16 euro and their stay often exceeded the period of 18 months. At the same time, very few of the immigrants decided to voluntarily return to their countries, and some had been recently released because they did not want to be repatriated.

At the same time, the average return cost was 1,240 euro per person. The cheapest airline tickets for scheduled flights were in the range of 400 euro and those for charter flights cost 1,400 euro.

Finally, the members of the research team said it would be more efficient to reduce the costs for detention at the expense of increasing the return rate of immigrants to the countries of origin. Their other recommendations include information campaigns in the countries of origin and transition to open centres, such as those established by non-governmental organizations, where the subsistence cost per person is 12 euro.

The presentation of the study was followed by a discussion with representatives of leading European institutions. Nikolaos Sitaropoulos from the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe stated that its members are particularly concerned about the rigours of life in the Greek centres and human rights violations there. He stressed that the position of the Council of Europe is that they should be closed.

Daphne Gogou from the Directorate for Justice of the European Commission said that a discussion on the decriminalization of the illegal stay on the territory of the European Union is currently underway. "We strive to achieve a higher level of transparency in all stages of the management of migration flows, observance of human rights, providing protection for vulnerable groups, provision of health services to all immigrants and raising awareness of the conditions in Europe in the countries of origin."

Director of the European external borders agency Frontex in Greece Grigoris Apostolou said the department is also concerned about the human rights of immigrants. "Our task is guarding Europe's borders and it is not associated with immigrants alone. Very often there are criminals and even human and drug traffickers among them. Our job is to detect them among the rest." He said that the members of the border authorities such as the Coast Guard often forget about other obligations and seek only to save the lives of the immigrants who are in danger. According to him, there are even numerous cases in which they risk their lives to save them.

According to Apostolou, many details in the work of border authorities in Greece have improved, including the recruitment of specialized staff to carry out the screening of immigrants on the spot. In order for them to explore in depth the modus operandi of trafficking networks, they conduct interviews with immigrants. "The interview is voluntary and immigrants are free to refuse to give information to us," he said.

Tags: SocietyIllegal immigrationDetention centresRepatriationGuarding bordersInformation campaigns
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