The legalization odyssey

Hundreds of thousands of migrants’ files are piled up in the offices of the Attica Prefecture, due to the lack of any system for handling them. Each file corresponds to a migrant who is under threat of deportation, or has been waiting for many months for the documents to certify their legal residence in Greece, or is involved in a never-ending drama of submitting documentation for work and residence permits that are already out of date when they are finally issued, whereupon the migrants have to start the whole process again from scratch. The Attica Prefecture alone has 200,000 outstanding files, about 100,000 of which are already out of date. In addition there are 75,000 applications by migrants that have not even been registered and given a protocol number, 6,000 files that have been submitted to municipalities, and 18,000 applications by migrants that have been approved but for which no residence permit has been issued. The outcome is that some migrants are detained for longer periods in prison and many foreigners are deported for no reason. Sources close to the Attica Prefecture leadership admit that the delay in issuing residence permits to migrants who are entitled to them «feeds» gangs that exploit migrants with the help of uniformed and civilian employees of the Public Order Ministry and of certain lawyers. The Athens Prefecture’s Workers’ Association has made serious allegations about the side effects of the situation: 1. Gangs of lawyers, pensioners and former and current public servants exploit migrants and trade on their hopes. 2. Ongoing, heavy pressure exerted on the prefecture by diplomatic missions, businesses, organizations and politicians. 3. Long queues and inconvenience every day for people who are making a protest, seeking information or making an application for an exception to be made in their case. In addition to the above problems are the 250 applications for suspension and quashing of deportation orders, 200 of which are already out of date. With serious shortages of staff and infrastructure, the prefecture is finding it almost impossible to deal with the situation. As the Attica Prefecture’s general secretary, Mr Maniatis, explains, of the 75 prefecture staff who deal with migrants’ affairs, 60 are on short-term contracts and will leave when their contract expires. As for the computer system for dealing with applications, there were five different programs, all incompatible with each other and therefore useless. It was only a few months ago that an office in the Municipality of Athens was assigned the task of creating a computer system and 50 new staff were employed on contracts.

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