ATHENS - Greece opened its first purpose-built detention center for illegal migrants on Sunday in Athens, a week before a national election where illegal immigration has emerged as a key issue.

About 130,000 immigrants cross the country's porous sea and land borders every year, the vast majority via Turkey, and the authorities are forced to release those who are arrested because of a lack of permanent housing.

With Greece in its fifth year of recession and worries over rising crime levels, illegal immigration has become a major issue in the run up of the May 6 election.

The once-obscure far-right Golden Dawn, which wants to deport all immigrants, is among the parties that has benefited most from the mood among voters, and is expected to win its first seats in parliament.

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