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Greece takes steps to offer citizenship to children of immigrants February 1, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Human rights, Yunanistan.
Tags: , , ,

Greece is taking steps to offer citizenship to over 130,000 second-generation immigrants living under doubtful residence status for years, but the measure has divided Greek political parties.

The new policy, which the government is still finalising after posting the draft bill online for comments, enables the children of migrants legally living in Greece for at least five years to acquire Greek citizenship.

Prime Minister George Papandrou on Monday insisted the new policy which has upset the right-wing opposition would “guarantee social peace and cohesion” while rights and migrant groups have welcomed the proposed reforms.

“The reform is a real relief that finally offers the promise of integration,” the chairman of the Union of African Women Loretta Makolei, originally from Sierra Leone, told AFP.

“We want to eliminate the current absurdity…and protect migrants whose status is in doubt,” adds Andreas Takis, general secretary for immigration at the Citizen’s Protection Ministry.

Thousands of migrant children, many of whom have known no other homeland but Greece, currently live in legal limbo and face severe employment difficulties upon leaving university.

Naturalisation currently requires a stay of at least 10 years but is costly, complicated by endless red tape and offers no guarantee of approval.

“This is a real break with the past,” notes Dimitris Christopoulos, chairman of the Greek Human Rights Union.

“For the first time, the debate opens on who can be Greek,” he told AFP.

The bill also empowers citizens born outside Greece to stand as municipal and regional councillors in local elections – though not as mayors – after at least five years of continuous legal stay in the country.

The second measure has drawn howls of protest from the small nationalist party Laos which has called for a national referendum on the issue.

“With these policies, tomorrow on most Greek islands you will have mayors elected by a majority of migrants,” Laos leader George Karatzaferis told a local administration congress on Monday.

The main opposition New Democracy party has also criticised the naturalisation drive as too generous.

“We call on the government to refrain from carrying out this thoughtless, mass legalisation that lacks the prerequisites set by other European Union members,” New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said.

Migrants constitute around 10% of Greece’s 11mn population. Albanians are the largest group.



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