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One third of the police is fighting illegal immigration

20 November 2010 / 14:11:35  GRReporter
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Greece is the "deep pot" of illegal immigrants in the European Union, it practically has to operate with 90 percent of them said the Greek police’s spokesman Athanasios Kokkalakis in an interview with Anastasia Balezdrova.
Mr. Kokalakis, how many illegal immigrants have crossed the border since the beginning of the year?

At the moment their number exceeds 100,000.

Where do they come through most often?

Their main entrance is currently the eastern land border of the country with Turkey in the region of Evros.

Why don’t they pass as they did before through the Aegean Islands? Did the air patrols of the Greek military aircraft and their colleagues from Frontex manage to cut the corridor?

Yes, this cooperation has helped much to improve the situation as regards to the maritime border. Yet another equivalent parameter is the fact that the land border is now safer and cheaper for human traffickers. To be able to pass through the sea border, each of the illegal immigrants needs 5-7 thousand dollars, while the amount for crossing the land border has decreased to a thousand euros. Thus, those wishing to cross the border with Greece are many, and it is safer for immigrants and traffickers.

People who live in the area say that illegal immigrants are literally looking for the police to capture them. Is that true?

The truth is that a large proportion of them are looking for the Greek police or - in the last month – the joint forces of Frontex for many reasons. On the one hand to verify their residence in Greece and on the other, to much lesser extent, to apply for asylum. A right, which some of them possibly have.

Are there many applicants for asylum?

For the present the data from the beginning of this year show that less than one tenth of the illegal immigrants have filed such requests. There are about 6500 applications for 100,000 illegal immigrants. This shows that the desire and purpose of these people is to enter in Greece and use it as a step to transfer to Central and Western Europe.

After being caught by the police, what procedure follows? What documents are issued to them?

After capturing them they are taken to the registration centers, where in addition to registering them, a photograph is being taken them and also their fingerprints are taken. This is a European procedure which we follow. Alongside some of them which are believed that they should be expelled remain in the police. To the others, for which there is no data that they may be dangerous to public or national security is issued a document that informs them that within one month they should leave the country. This is the statutory process.

What do immigrants do after receiving this document?

What they most often do is to move to Attica, and especially to Athens. One smaller part of them searches ports, such as the one in Igoumenitsa, Patras or Skala Lakonias. They want to be somewhere near them to be able to somehow penetrate illegally in some vehicle or through the network of human traffickers to move into central Europe.

In this way, however nobody knows where they are.

Yes, that is true. It is not possible to have data for each person by name. Since they have no specific residence here in Athens, or a family relationship with someone, we are talking about people who are lost in the crowd. Of course, the police is continually making verifications so that we know where these people are, but that does not mean they can not move and be found wherever. Since the document grants them the opportunity to leave the country after month, they could be anywhere.

Since the beginning of the month in the region of Evros were deployed Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT) of Frontex, which guard the border together with the Greek police. Do you have any results concerning their effectiveness?

Results so far show a reduction of 40-50% in the number of illegal immigrants. It is related to the activities of the joint patrol groups as well as with the weather conditional and it is different every day. It is clear however that we have a serious reduction in the influx of immigrants. I think the message of groups of Rapid Border Intervention is not so much about whether there is a decrease within 10-20 days, etc. The message is larger and is not restricted to operating activities. It is that the European Union is practically here. It is a broad political message of Europe to third countries - and especially to neighboring countries like Turkey or countries from which immigrants come - that the border of Greece is Europe's borders. It is not just the border of a country that accepts as a deep dish a huge number of illegal immigrants.

Tags: illegal immigration European Union Frontex RABITS Athanasios Kokkalakis
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