Some 140,000 immigrants living in Greece legally are facing possible expulsion from the country as a bureaucratic overload on an already overstretched system is preventing citizens of countries from outside the European Union who do not have an active work contract from renewing their residence permits, sources have told Kathimerini.
Existing legislation stipulates that non-EU residents who are left without an active work contract cannot remain in the country legally and have to leave Greece.
Government officials last year promised to update legislation in order to tackle the issue. But little has been done since then to fix the problem, save a renewed pledge last week by Deputy Labor and Social Insurance Minister Anna Dalara.
The immigrants affected by this bureaucratic tangle were given something of a lifeline in September in the form of a circular issued by the Interior Ministry that gave them the option of halting the expulsion process and in that way buy some time to find a permanent job. According to the circular, immigrants have to submit a signed statement from an employer saying that the former is working for them in some capacity.
However, the above process has put further strain on the system. The Athens Aliens Bureau reportedly has a huge backlog of 120,000 applications and experts are concerned that the situation will encourage a black market for documents.
The number of people with residence permits living in Greece has declined from 592,000 to 460,000 since the beginning of the year ? a 26 percent drop.
The vast majority of those threatened with expulsion are of Albanian origin. Albanians make up 70 percent of all legal migrants in Greece.
Experts are warning that recent developments will heavily affect second-generation migrants here whose legal status is tied to their parents? residence permits.