10 Ιουλίου 2009


Athens News: What is your take on the government’s new measures?

Evangelos Venizelos: The legislation that was recently passed by parliament makes immigrant smuggling a severe crime - we agree with this. If only the clause was worded correctly, in such a way that would not put innocent people, like a taxi driver transporting immigrants in the prefecture of Hios, or in the prefecture of Thesprotias, at risk of being convicted of a crime.

There is also major concern about extending, up to 12 whole months, the period of time non-legal immigrants may be detained, without any of the guarantees stipulated by the European Court of Human Rights.

Also, there is outright objection to the measure that foresees that any immigrant, including legal immigrants who have documents, may be deemed a threat to public order and face deportation even if they have been charged with petty misdemeanour without first being tried in the courts. This is a measure that essentially affects all legal immigrants because the [undocumented migrants] are subject to the existing measure of repatriation.

Their detention has some logic, but only if they are detained in special facilities properly staffed and that have suitable resources to receive non-legal immigrants for a certain period of time. It would be misleading to deem that this could be a solution to the problem of non-legal immigrants and that such measures can deter waves of illegal immigration from countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan.

Athens News: What do you think of the police sweep operations targeting undocumented migrants? It is, after all, something that Pasok conducted back in 1999.

Evangelos Venizelos: It’s true. Sweep operations were undertaken many times in the 1990s, when thousands of non-legal immigrants arrived, mainly from Albania and other southeastern European countries. But they came through the country’s land border, which made it easy, practically speaking, to repatriate them. We were later forced to organise the mass legalisation [of undocumented migrants].

But what’s the use of such sweep operations for non-legal immigrants who don’t hail from neighbouring countries and who do not cross land borders, but who hail from faraway countries and make their way here by sea? Where would it lead us? How successful would we be?

The main cause of the problem is not the poor guy fleeing his war-torn country in search of a better life. The problem has been created by the European Union and its Dublin II Regulation, which forces Greece to serve as a warehouse for immigrants hoping to make their way to another European country but who can’t. We are obligated to keep them here, either under deplorable conditions in detention facilities, or in deplorable conditions in the centre of Athens and other big cities.

Athens News: What are Pasok’s immigration policy proposals?

Evangelos Venizelos:A problem such as this can only be addressed, at the very least, on a Europe-wide level. So, there is a need for a common European strategy to protect the borders and for the European Union to negotiate with Turkey and other [immigrant source] countries across the coast. It is also necessary to drastically amend the Dublin II Regulation so there will be a fair distribution of the immigration burden among all the European countries.

Instead of burying its face in the sand, Europe must address the root causes of the problem and realise that it is creating the wave of non-legal immigrants from war-torn countries and other countries where there is conflict.



* Η συνέντευξη δόθηκε στη δημοσιογράφο Kathy Tzivilaki, ATHENS NEWS, 10/7/2009