Immigrants who from next month are expecting to receive new residence permits or to have existing ones renewed are also due to be issued with electronic identity cards but Kathimerini understands that the scheme is likely to be severely delayed because of staff shortages and a huge backlog of applications.
According to the guidelines set out by the government, the cards, which will contain a passport-style photo of the holder as well as his or her fingerprints, should be handed out with any permits that are issued from May 20.
However, a visit to the main aliens bureau in Athens, which is estimated to deal with 120,000 applications a year, revealed there is no way that this target can be met given the current staffing levels.
There are just 30 employees at the main bureau, just off Petrou Ralli Street, as all the additional staff that had been employed on short-term contracts have not had their deals renewed, nor have they been replaced by new hires.
At another bureau in Piraeus, 30 employees are dealing with 100,000 applications. There is also an office in Pallini, northeast of Athens, where 25 staff have 100,000 files to process.
Sources said that at the current rate, employees expect to process all the applications up to the end of 2010 by the end of this year.
The government has proposed moving some staff from the old prefectures, which have been merged into regions as part of local government reforms under the Kallikratis plan, but there have been very few transfers so far, leaving the bureaus severely short-staffed.
Workers at the immigration offices are concerned that a number of other legislation changes will increase their workload even further. For example, the government is intending to reduce the number of social security credits a migrant needs over a two-year period to renew their permit from 400 to 240.
The bureau employees point out that this change of criteria will mean that a lot of cases will have to be re-examined.