New queues of migrants to replace the old
Begun last June and due to end next May, the process of legalizing illegal immigrants had hardly begun when a new wave of illegal immigrants surged. Most of this latter group consists of those already within Greece who were unable to participate in the first part of the process, or applicants who failed to meet the requirements for the the six-month residence permit (accounting for 2 percent of the total number of aliens who participated in the process). By the shipload Events in Afghanistan and neighboring countries have greatly contributed to the strength of this second wave of illegal immigration. Shiploads of migrants frequently land on the Greek islands, while two to three weary aliens arrive daily by other means, according to the Interior Ministry. The phenomenon is hardly likely to disappear in the current international situation – quite the contrary. That is why many islands are preparing facilities, funded by the Interior Ministry, for large numbers of immigrants in case of need. Facilities Hotels on many islands have already been converted into reception centers while on Lesvos, where the pressure is greater, the Center for Agricultural Research has been duly modified. Four other reception centers have been set up on the Greek mainland, all north of Larissa. No law grants leave of stay to immigrants who have entered Greece, they automatically enter upon an illegal existence, while only one in 10 are granted asylum. And in each and every case, at least for the immigrants who have reached Greece in the past few weeks, there is no question of repatriation to their countries of origin, since they are in a state of war. Legalization continues Regardless of the fresh waves of immigrants, the process of legalization for the 367,000 immigrants who applied by August 2 for the six-month residence permit is continuing. Most have already obtained the permit, though 6,000 applications (half of these to the Athens Municipality) have been rejected due to the lack of the requisite documents testifying to at least a year’s stay in Greece. The names of the immigrants who failed to receive the permit have been forwarded to the Ministry of Public Order, as they must be deported, according to the most recent law. Within six months of the signing of the first residence permit, immigrants must proceed with the next phase of the process, that of gaining the yearly residence permit, subject to them having work. Many immigrants have already embarked on the process, which is expected to be completed by May of next year. During this period, the authorities will check the list of those with the temporary permit against the list of undesirables as drawn up by the Schengen Treaty. Any immigrants on the latter list cannot enter the second stage of the process. But many immigrants have already submitted documents to the prefectures for the work-cum-residence permit. Requirements To obtain the residence and work permits, the interested party must apply to the labor authority of the prefecture in which he or she lives. There, he must submit an application for the work permit and the renewal of the residence permit, stating his exact address. Proof of insurance and proof of employment must be submitted. The former must cover hospitalization, medical and pharmaceutical care, and work accidents. Failing that, a certificate that an application has been made to an insurance company will be accepted instead. Proof of employment must include a statement by the employer specifying the length of time for which the immigrant will be employed and that the Aliens and Immigration Bureau will be informed should employment be terminated. Two color photographs, the temporary residence permit and a health certificate from a state hospital must also be submitted, as well as a sworn statement that the immigrant has not committed any criminal act. The residence and work permits will then be renewed for a year and will be renewed again for as long as the permit holder remains in employment. In view of the implementation of the second phase of the process, the Interior Ministry has amended the immigration law to deal with the various issues that arise along the way. The amendments provide for: – Safeguarding the minimum wage for immigrants through a contract stating that they earn at least unskilled worker’s wages. – The issuing of a residence permit to unmarried, underage offspring of the alien as long as he exercises parental care. – The issuing of a work permit for humanitarian reasons to those who do not meet legal requirements. – The issuing of a residence permit which may act as a work permit to aliens for reasons of special public interest. The residence permit is issued for a year and can be renewed for another year. – For immigrants employed in the agricultural sector who possess a six-month residence permit and who often change employers or have only short-term employment, sworn statements are sufficient to prove that they are employed. New address With these amendments, the ministry deems that it is ironing out various wrinkles in the fledgling law. But the amendments essentially seek to deal with immigrants already in the country and do not satisfy the need for a substantial policy on immigration. Among other measures, the Interior Ministry has decided to set up a new Aliens and Immigration Department which will have jurisdiction over programming, implementation, supervision and the monitoring of government policy with respect to immigration to Greece.