NEWS

Migrants need fewer social security stamps for permits

Migrants working in Greece will need fewer social security stamps to renew their residence permits and gain access to state healthcare, according to a decision announced on Monday by Alternate Labor and Social Insurance Minister, Giorgos Koutroumanis.

To renew their residence permits, migrants will need to gather 120 stamps compared to the 200 that are necessary now, while securing state healthcare will require 50 stamps instead of the current 80.

Koutroumanis said these changes would be included in a draft bill foreseeing the reorganization of the ministry?s labor inspectorate, due to be submitted in Parliament soon. Meanwhile, authorities are to seek to align Greek law with European Union legislation imposing fines on firms found to be employing people without paying their social security contributions.

?The bill currently being drafted is the cornerstone of our policy to crack down on clandestine employment and income tax evasion,? said Deputy Labor Minister, Anna Dalara, following talks with officials from the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE).

In a related development, Citizens? Protection Minister, Christos Papoutsis, said on Monday that authorities were concerned about the health of 287 undocumented immigrants in Athens and Thessaloniki who have entered the fifth week of a hunger strike, but stressed that Greece cannot legalize immigrants en masse. ?Greece cannot and will not proceed with a mass legalization of immigrants.

National legislation and the European laws that bind us do not allow it,? Papoutsis said.

Doctors monitoring the health of the hunger striking migrants yesterday warned that many of them were nearing critical condition. A total of 38 protesters have been hospitalized – 28 in Athens and 10 in Thessaloniki. Twenty of the migrants are said to have suffered acute kidney failure.

The relentless influx of immigrants heading to Europe via Greece is to top the agenda of talks that Papoutsis is due to have in Ankara on Tuesday with Turkish government officials. Athens claims that Ankara is not honoring its migrant repatriation agreement with the European Union.

In a statement released last week, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that it had been disappointed with the conclusions of European Union summit on February 24 regarding the bloc?s planned response to an influx of immigrants from strife-torn north African countries toward Europe. In the statement, the Turkish ministry is believed to have sought a quid pro quo, indicating that it would make good on its repatriation pact with Brussels if Turkish citizens are allowed to travel more freely within Europe.