Immigrants’ deadline is extended

Immigrants have been granted a six-month extension of the deadline to apply for residence and work permits, as a result of the public administration’s inability to cope with hundreds of thousands of applications. Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis has presented Parliament with an amendment allowing this. He briefed Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday. The deadline for immigrants to renew their residence permits was today. But the bureaucracy’s inability to respond to over half a million applications meant that a great number of people would not get their permits by the end of the year. This meant that they would have been in Greece illegally from tomorrow, in immediate danger of arrest and deportation. The six-month extension is aimed at allowing migrants who did not manage to get all the necessary documentation ready in time to apply, while giving the civil service time to process the applications it has already received and those that are to follow. This shows once again how unprepared the municipal and regional governments were in carrying out the task of issuing permits to migrants. Again, hundreds of immigrants had to queue up for hours on a seemingly interminable paper chase. Interior Ministry officials estimate that a total of 550,000 people who have green cards or temporary permits will apply for the work and residence permits. Each of the country’s 11 regions has received between 15,000 and 20,000 applications for residence permits. In Attica there are 140,000 immigrants with temporary permits. Migrants who have not submitted their documents for a renewal of their residence permits must apply for a renewal of work permits at prefecture offices and then submit applications for residence permits with municipal authorities. The Interior Ministry has said that people who do not have passports or other travel documents will not be granted annual residence permits, even if they already have green cards or work permits. Greece is in talks with Albania and Pakistan and has asked them to provide their nationals in Greece with passports.

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