Greece rethinks immigration policy

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday called for a complete redrawing of Greece’s immigration policy, telling senior cabinet ministers that extant legislation is far from satisfactory. Over the past 13 years, particularly after the Albanian border opened in 1991, up to a million economic migrants entered Greece – mostly illegally. Since then, Greek authorities have proved incapable of formulating workable policies on handling immigration and legalizing migrants. As a result, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants skipped the legalization process, while most of those who followed it still face often insurmountable bureaucratic difficulties. Sources told Kathimerini that, during a meeting with the ministers of foreign affairs, the interior, public order, finance and labor, Karamanlis argued that the present system is too complicated to be efficient, while at the same time a large number of immigrants still reside and work in the country illegally. Government estimates indicate that there are some 600,000 legal immigrants in Greece, while a further 300,000 are still illegal. The status of another 50,000 remains fuzzy, as all that is known of them is that they have applied for asylum. The same sources said that the government proposes, if not to find a way of legalizing all migrants, at least to register them and regulate their residence and work status. Officials are also interested in the economics of immigration, mainly concerning lost social security revenues – as a result of unregistered employment. Furthermore, yesterday’s meeting looked into the problems of migrants who have followed the legalization process, but still face trouble with social security and other issues. Interministerial working groups will be set up to propose reforms.