As Greece slides towards the abyss of political and economic chaos, the country’s flood of mostly Muslim illegal aliens are being blamed for exacerbating the financial crisis that now threatens to infect other eurozone nations.
7NEWS The annual cost of sustaining this immigrant population – in terms of healthcare, crime and impact on legitimate businesses – is estimated at 6 billion euros, says the president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce, Constantine Michalos.
Not only does Athens face the threat of expulsion from the euro common currency, but Greece’s inability to control its borders could lead to Athens’ exclusion from the Schengen Agreement – the deal that allows free travel without passports between 25 European nations.
With its porous borders, Greece has become a convenient backdoor entry into the rest of the European Union. In 2010, 90 per cent of all illegal aliens detained in the EU had entered through Greece. Detainees were often sent back to their point of entry to the European Union – usually Greece – but this practice has now been stopped.
With an official population of just 11 million, Greece now hosts a staggering 1 million illegal immigrants and asylum seekers. Nearly 130,000 people were detained last year attempting to enter Greece illegally. The financial and migrant crises are closely linked.
Athens Chamber of Commerce president Constantine Michalos says that with no documentation and no money, immigrants pour into Greek cities, exacerbating the country’s financial woes by becoming foot soldiers in the nation’s 15 billion euro a year illicit street trade, controlled by organised crime.
“In view of the growing unemployment in Greece at the moment, this is the only way that the immigrants can survive,” Mr Michalos said. “The problem has significantly exaggerated in recent years due to the increase in the numbers of immigrants and worsens because they are ‘trapped’ in Greece and cannot move on to the rest of Europe.”
And there is no sign of Greece’s immigrant flood abating. At one notorious crossing area on Greece’s land frontier with Turkey, 30,000 people were detained in the first six months of 2011 – nearly double the figure for the same period last year.
Most of those arrested were from the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan.
In September, New York-based Human Rights Watch on appalling conditions inside Greece’s immigration detention centres. Human Rights Watch said males and females were herded together in filthy, overcrowded cells; there were allegations of rape and of unaccompanied minors being dumped in packed ‘cages’ with adult males. (That’s called making them feel at home)
“Sewage was running on the floors and the smell was hard to bear. Greek guards wore surgical masks when they entered the passageway between the large barred cells.”
Greece’s police and citizens protection minister, Christos Papoutsis, said, “At a time when the Greek government is asking for sacrifices from its people and Greek citizens have seen a large reduction in their income, it would be contradictory at the very least for the national budget to be used for upgrading detention conditions for illegal immigrants,” he said.