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Greek bill to detain illegal immigrants for disease is 'alarming'

April 3, 2012 |  4:30 am


In Greece, a plan to detain illegal immigrants suspected of carrying HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases has upset Amnesty International, which called the idea “deeply alarming” and discriminatory.

A law drafted by the government would hold illegal immigrants in indefinite detention for mandatory health checks and treatment for contagious ailments, the Associated Press reported.

"Under the proposed amendments, the law will foresee the right to detain non-nationals -- whether they have applied for political asylum or not -- if they pose a risk to public health,” the authors of the Greek bill, which was submitted late Monday, were quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Amnesty International argued that the proposed law, which would target immigrants who live in unhygienic conditions, use drugs or engage in sex work, was victimizing the most vulnerable people.

The human rights group also argued that asylum seekers, who it said faced “severe difficulties” trying to plead their cases in Greece,  would risk being rounded up with other immigrants.

The new proposal was put forward at the same time that Greece has announced plans to create 30 detention centers for illegal immigrants, each holding 1,000 people, at a cost of more than $333 million in European Union funds, the Athens News Agency reported Monday.

“Whoever is not entitled to international protection, and is simply illegal, will be repatriated according to existing procedures,” Minister of Citizen Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis was quoted as saying in the Greek daily Kathimerini, urging European support in guarding Greek borders.

Roughly one-tenth of the Greek population are immigrants, many of them from Asia and Africa, according to estimates from the International Organization for Migration. The wave of immigration to Greece has prompted a backlash against newcomers, The Times' Henry Chu reported two years ago:

The influx has fanned anger and fear not only among the avowed chauvinists of the far right, but increasingly among more moderate Greeks who view the strangers in their midst as importers of crime, squalor and distasteful habits.

Then too, the government is "at least 10 years behind other European countries" in establishing a legal infrastructure for dealing with the explosion in immigration, said Tzanetos Antypas, the head of Praksis, a rights organization here in the Greek capital.


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Mali is cut off by its neighbors. What will blocking the borders do?

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Greek police check the identity documents of immigrants during a roundup operation in Athens last month. Credit: Thanassis Stavrakis / Associated Press