NEWS

Immigration bill boosts some rights, curbs others

An immigration bill that was submitted in Parliament for debate on Friday, and is expected to be voted on in the coming weeks, aims to simplify the process for migrants securing residence permits and facilitate their access to the labor market, but stops short of addressing the thorny issues of citizenship for immigrants in Greece and the rise in racially motivated attacks.

The bill foresees the simplification of residence permit applications by setting up “one-stop shops” and removing municipal authorities from the procedure. It also reviews the conditions for labor market access in a bid to allow long-term migrants to seek work in other European Union countries as well as securing the legal status of second-generation migrants in Greece.

Presenting the bill in Parliament, Alternate Interior Minister Leonidas Grigorakos said final proposals for provisions regarding citizenship for immigrants had been forwarded to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partner Evangelos Venizelos and their approval remained at their discretion.

As regards measures to tackle a spike in racist attacks on migrants in Greece, the issue has been debated at the committee level in Parliament but has yet to reach the House’s plenary session.

The same bill contains controversial provisions depriving non-Greek citizens legally living in the country and Greeks living abroad of the right to vote and stand as candidates in local and regional elections. The provisions were proposed last week by Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis, who said they were an attempt to abide by a recent decision by the Council of State that deemed a 2010 law granting greater voting rights to immigrants as unconstitutional.

Legal experts debating the provisions at a parliamentary committee on Friday said the decision by the country’s highest administrative court could not be ignored. Opposition lawmakers countered that the government should find an alternative solution.

Grigorakos told Parliament that the provision, if passed, would deprive a relatively small number of immigrants –10,800 – of their voting right. He said the total number of legal immigrants in Greece is 473,124. Of this number, 232,000 are spread across Attica, Thessaloniki and Halkidiki, he said.

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