Greek Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said the country continues to be so overwhelmed by illegal immigrants that other European Union countries should take some of them.
He told BBC’s Hardtalk program that undocumented immigrants in Greece were “a huge burden on our society,” and that Greece needs more assistance from the EU, which offers some aid and oversees the FRONTEX patrol program but which he said hasn’t done enough.
“The pressure that is being applied on Greek society and to the systems that support it are enormous,” he said. “I am saying the EU is not helping us enough.” He called for more EU funding and an agreement to share the number of migrants being accepted into European societies.
“It should be based on certain factors, for example the area of the country, its GDP and population,” he said. “I don’t believe there is one European citizen that thinks it’s right for a small country with a huge economic crisis, like Greece, to be burdened with 90 percent of the illegal migrants in the whole of Europe.”
He denied that Greece was mistreating migrants in “detention centers,” referring to them instead as “pre-removal centers” and saying that the government was improving facilities.
He defended the Xenios Zeus program, which has seen thousands of migrants stopped and searched since last year, saying that too many immigrants were crossing Greece’s border with Turkey and that the center of Athens had been “practically occupied” by migrants. He added that the scheme also protected migrants who were being victimized by gangs.
Dendias denied that Xenios Zeus was a waste of resources since only 6 percent of those stopped were arrested as it had helped Greek authorities get a better idea of “who is in the country.”
He rejected accusations that migrants had been abused by police and pointed out that more than 80,000 people were stopped but none of them have sued officers for their behavior. “I welcome any judicial process against the officer involved and he will be punished according to the law,” said Dendias.
He also denied charges that the government is not investigating racist assaults against immigrants, which some critics said are perpetrated by the neo-Nazi Golden party, which denied the claims.
“Impunity does not exist,” he told his interviewer Gavin Estler, adding that a special police unit has been set up to deal with racist crimes. But he said he’s worried about the rising presence of Golden Dawn, claiming that “its core is neo-Nazi and very dangerous for democracy.”
He said the party grew popular because of its anti-immigrant stance during a crushing economic crisis as many Greeks looked to the party for protection and in anger against the government.
But with polls showing the party has risen to as much as 10-12 percent, he said he didn’t believe it. “I am not willing to accept that a tenth of the Greek population has become neo-Nazis,” he said.