Helping immigrants adapt to Greece
Greece’s first Operational Program for Immigrants, which has just been approved by the Interior Ministry, gets underway in the new year with a series of pilot programs aimed at training civil services in immigrant policy and setting up infrastructure to help migrants adapt to Greek reality. According to Foteini Tsalikoglou, a professor at Panteion University and the newly appointed president of the Institute for Immigrant Policy, the approach to dealing with the question of immigration would have to combine both «realism and vision,» a middle ground between two slogans found scrawled among university graffiti – «We are all immigrants» and «Out with all foreigners.» The UN puts the proportion of immigrants in Greece at present at 7 percent of the population, and estimates that by 2015 there will be 3.5 million immigrants in a total population of 14.2 million. The operational program, drawn up by a group at Panteion University headed by Professor Panayiotis Yietimis and budgeted at 260 million euros, provides for an immigrants’ ombudsman, an immigrants information center, access to employment opportunities and healthcare, incentives for employers to provide social security benefits and other issues such as housing. During Greece’s presidency of the European Union, which begins next month, the Interior Ministry is promoting the adoption of two directives: the first facilitates the reunion of immigrants with their families and the second will allow those who have completed five years of legal residence in the country to qualify for an open-ended residence permit.