An abandoned military facility close to the northern city of Kozani is to open within a month with the aim of temporarily detaining several thousand undocumented immigrants, according to a plan discussed on Tuesday by Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis and conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras.
Chrysochoidis, who heralded the plan for the detention center during a cabinet meeting on Monday, is also said to have ordered police to conduct sweeps in central Athens, chiefly with the aim of detaining immigrants without papers but also to crack down on illegal trade and the open use of drugs by addicts.
The goal is to transfer the undocumented migrants arrested in the sweeps to the new facility while their status is reviewed.
The barracks, abandoned since 2008, are said to have been picked out of a list of disused military facilities across the country by Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
The facility is set in a plot covering 15 hectares and can accommodate around 3,000 migrants, according to sources, who said that large tents will be used in addition to the buildings to house the occupants.
A ministry source said that the facility is located a fair distance from the city of Kozani, adding that local authorities would receive some kind of sweetener.
Police are already said to be drafting a feasibility study for the project, which is expected to be financed with 5 million euros in European Union funding for the bloc’s external border protection.
Speaking on Tuesday after his meeting with Samaras, Chrysochoidis said the government was determined to tackle the problem of illegal immigration. “We must defuse the ticking time bomb of immigration that is sitting on the foundation of society,” he said.