Greece seeks heavier penalties for illegal immigrants
Posted Tuesday, September 18 2012 at 03:06
- The idea is that people who have already broken the law by entering illegally should not be entitled to the same treatment as Greek citizens or documented migrants.
- Police reinforcements have been sent to Greece's northeastern border with Turkey, a major overland route for migrant smugglers
Greece's prime minister is promoting new laws to punish undocumented immigrants who commit crimes with harsher penalties than legal residents, the government said on Monday.
According to a press release, "when illegal immigrants engage in any criminal action with intent, their illegal entry into the country" will be considered as an aggravating circumstance.
The idea is that people who have already broken the law by entering illegally should not be entitled to the same treatment as Greek citizens or documented migrants.
The aim is to crack down on crimes by undocumented migrants and to deter those who would enter the country illegally.
Earlier on Monday, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said Greece must "fortify" itself against illegal immigration, fearing a new wave from conflict-torn Syria, as officials reported pressure on maritime borders.
"Measures were discussed... to fortify the Aegean Sea," Dendias told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that was also attended by the ministers of defence and shipping.
"A migration wave is starting to show. It has not yet reached Greece in large numbers. Currently it is heading to Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, but the country must be ready," he said.
More than 250,000 Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries to escape the 18-month violence that has killed more than 27,000 people according to activists.
Turkey now hosts some 80,000 refugees in camps in the southeast bordering Syria. But it has warned it can handle no more than 100,000 refugees.
Greece -- battling a five-year recession and insolvency and already home to hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers -- is also having difficulty coping with the strain.
Police reinforcements have been sent to Greece's northeastern border with Turkey, a major overland route for migrant smugglers, but the flow appears to have switched to the Aegean Sea islands near the Turkish mainland.
"I wake up every morning and say, 'Has anything happened to Syria today?'" the prime minister was quoted as saying in The Washington Post last weekend.
"If something happens in Syria, thousands of people would be flowing into Greece. Illegal immigrants are already a very big problem for us.
"We are already taking big steps to disallow illegal immigrants from coming in. Imagine if that number is multiplied by 10."