Chaos reigns as migrants face cutoff

Thousands of immigrants continued to line up outside municipal offices across Greece yesterday, trying to beat the deadline for applying for residence permits. Many were there from the predawn hours, hoping to get inside in order to get a slip of paper with a date on which they could come back to make their applications. People endured hardship and anger as they stood in the burning sun and municipal officials were swamped by the magnitude of the task. It is estimated that 100,000 applications will be made in Athens. Faced with this chaos, and after Deputy Interior Minister Lambros Papademas had said no extension to the June 30 deadline would be given, the Interior Ministry issued a circular yesterday which will «informally» allow migrants to make their applications by September at the latest. The circular, to municipal and regional government (nomarchia) offices says that the process for providing residence permits will be completed by October 30. This means that migrants will be able to go to municipal and regional government offices up to a month before that to apply for residence and work permits, respectively. The circular also calls on police not to deport people without permits before October 30 – as long as the migrant has a valid passport, a temporary residence permit and has requested its renewal and has a certification from the regional government or municipal office that he or she has tabled the necessary documents or has started the procedure to get work or residence permits. The circular says if someone does not have the above certificates but has a work permit that has expired, they will not run the risk of expulsion. It is this clause which is seen as a «silent» extension, giving migrants the chance to apply in the next few weeks. However, it remains an informal extension, as temporary residence permits or the deadline (yesterday) for applications for their renewal can only be extended by new legislation. Legislation that is expected to be voted on tomorrow, allows people whose residence and work permits expired on June 30, 2003, to apply after having paid 150 daily dues to IKA, instead of 300, as the law had demanded.

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