Migrants blamed amid Greek debt crisis

“Illegal immigrants who have swamped Greece’s borders are accused of exacerbating the financial crisis that now threatens to infect other eurozone nations.

The annual cost of sustaining this immigrant population – in terms of healthcare, crime and impact on legitimate businesses – is estimated at 6 billion euros, says the president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce, Constantine Michalos. …

With an official population of just 11 million, half that of Australia, Greece now hosts a staggering 1 million illegal immigrants and asylum seekers.

Nearly 130,000 people were detained last year attempting to enter Greece illegally.

The financial and migrant crises are closely linked.

Athens Chamber of Commerce president Constantine Michalos says that with no documentation and no money, immigrants pour into Greek cities, exacerbating the country’s financial woes by becoming foot soldiers in the nation’s 15 billion euro a year illicit street trade, controlled by organised crime.

“In view of the growing unemployment in Greece at the moment, this is the only way that the immigrants can survive,” Mr Michalos said.

“The problem has significantly exaggerated in recent years due to the increase in the numbers of immigrants and worsens because they are ‘trapped’ in Greece and cannot move on to the rest of Europe.”

And there is no sign of Greece’s immigrant flood abating.

At one notorious crossing area on Greece’s land frontier with Turkey, 30,000 people were detained in the first six months of 2011 – nearly double the figure for the same period last year.