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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.

Ministry of citizens protection presented a bill, which it hopes will reduce the number of illegal immigrants entering the country. How is it going to achieve this?

First I want to say that the bill is one of the aspect of the comprehensive national action plan on the control of immigration flows, which was proposed in September and was adopted by the EU. The response was such that the competent Commissioner and the European authorities promised as a whole to fund the program for a period of three years. Ie based on any need, on every research and on the proposals that will arise for the parameters of the plan the appropriate funding will be provided.
In the first stage which is currently underway, very soon the Presidential Decree on the method of reviewing the previously collected applications for asylum will be ratified and published. We hope the guidelines will help to tackle this huge number of applications - nearly 54,000 – which we failed to address in recent years. Within its frames will act expert committees and committees which will deal only with processing of the applications.
Parallel is already discussed a draft, which was originally approved for a new Office of refuge, a new Office for first registration as well as for the process of implementation of the Directive 118 of 2008 on common standards and procedures applicable in the  Member States in the Greek legal system concerning the returning of illegally residing citizens of third countries. The Office for initial registration will consider whether an illegal immigrant should be deported or should be provided with international or any other type of protection. From there on, immigrants who wish to submit applications for asylum will be able to do so in one office which will only have this task. Ie it will not deal with immigration as a whole, as done before by the police. People who will work there will be specially trained to perform the specific work. All this system will co-operate with the other member states of the EU. We are open to any kind of cooperation.

And what will happen to the Dublin II Regulations, according to which Europe returns illegal immigrants in the first country where they entered through because it has the responsibility for carrying out the procedure for refugee status and for the decision whether to obtain such status?

We believe that the Dublin II Regulation is unfair because the moment we are a host country for 90% of the illegal immigrants as those who left Greece or are believed to have slided in and are located somewhere in Europe are returned back here. Ie on the one hand we have inflows from third countries and on the other hand coercive institutional inflows from the EU. Therefore, we believe that it is unfair to Greece to be forced to adopt this whole number of illegal immigrants. I also think that no EU member country could not withstand and cope with this influx of illegal immigration. Their number is very large. We are talking about 250-300 people a day. This forces us to use 1 / 3 of the police force in the country to deal only with illegal immigration. We understand that these people are unhappy, that they come from countries where civil wars are held or are governed by regimes that do not respect human rights. But on the other hand, they come in a small country that is in poor economic condition. This causes major problems in the social symbiosis.
We have already turned to the competent authorities of the EU and on a political level. The Prime Minister himself turned to his colleagues and told them that here we are talking about a blatant injustice to Greece, which is currently the "deep pot" of immigrants. All of them are here. And it is unfair for a country with a population of 11 million to deal with problems that amount to the 500 million population of Europe or, if you prefer, to deal with such problems in its economic status compared with the other member states. I think that the revision of the Dublin II Regulation will demonstrate in practice the meaning of solidarity in the EU.

When did these large flows of illegal immigrants begin?

What I can say is that over the past five years, flows have increased, but in the last 1-2 have grown tremendously. Last year, 126,000 immigrants were registered, and to date we have already pass 100,000 for this year. We think that maybe we will reach last year's number. Fortunately we have the help of Frontex and maybe we will register a decline in some percentage, especially in the last months of the year. But Frontex will be here for a period of time, for two months. And it is possible that after these two months the flow to increase again not because we can not protect our border, but because the EU will not be here. The Rapid Border Intervention Teams are located where there is a need for them for a period of two months. We hope that the cooperation will be good and that if the need arises, RABITs will come here again. Anyway, Frontex is only body responsible for the protection of the external borders of Europe. And because 90% of the general problem is here, we hope that Frontex will be here even after those two months. We believe that until the final solving of the problem the EU should be here with its operational forces.

Tags: illegal immigration European Union Frontex RABITS Athanasios Kokkalakis
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