ATHENS – Expecting 100,000 illegal immigrants to swarm the country this year, Greece is drawing up emergency plans to deal with them.
The new Radical Left SYRIZA-led government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is already planning to close detention centers and free illegal immigrants who had been rounded up the past few years by previous governments.
Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Tasia Christodoulopoulou, speaking on Mega TV, said that the government plans to work with regional and local authorities on Greece’s borders and especially the islands.
Most of the incoming immigrants come from conflict-hit areas of the Middle East and North Africa and try to reach Greek islands first, many drowning on the way.
She said that they will be greeted with better reception centers and asylum procedures after human rights groups had charged they were being treated inhumanely and almost never being granted asylum.
About 800 have already arrived this year, she said, expecting the numbers to pick up with better weather and as Greece has asked the EU for more aid. The European Commissioner in charge of refugee policy is New Democracy Conservative party member Dimitris Avramopoulos
“If inflows continue at the current rate, we can expect 100,000 arrivals this year,” she said, adding, however, that migrants tend to prefer Italy and Spain as an entry point, as “they help them continue their journey to their destination” in other parts of the European Union.
Some 1,793 migrants detained in Greece were deported last month, Greek police said, led by 817 from Albania, 155 from Pakistan, 101 from Georgia and 27 from Bulgaria, while 52 Syrians volunteered to return home to their Civil War racked country.