File pile at Attica Prefecture

The jumble of red tape associated with the legalization procedure for migrants could have been resolved by computer links among the jointly responsible ministries. In spring 2003, the deputy interior minister told the Parliamentary Committee on Equality that the plan to hook up the ministries of the Interior, Public Order and Labor to a database of migrants’ records would be ready within a month. Yet it takes a year for a file, with or without a residence permit, to emerge from the Attica Prefecture. Moavia Ahmet of the Greek Migrants Forum and a representative of the Sudanese community, told Kathimerini that last month there were 103,000 files in the Attica Prefecture building, and a permanent staff of 15 with 20 to 30 on short-term contracts to deal with them. His own file has been outstanding since 2002. «At least six ministries and twice the number of related public services share the responsibility for implementing migration law. If one link in the chain is broken, the migrant loses his or her legality,» said Ahmet. «Migrants bear the burden of proving that they work, a burden that should be shared by employers and the state,» lawyer E. Fakinou told Kathimerini. Meanwhile, their problem is exacerbated, she said, «sometimes by the ignorance and sometimes by the well-intentioned misunderstanding of legal provisions by employees who illegally decide to map out the country’s immigrant policy, counter to the lawmaker and to EU immigration policy.» The lack of training for employees in this new field of work is one of the main causes of their xenophobic behavior, explains a source high up in local government. «There must be special seminars for staff who deal with migrant issues. They need basic information about the causes of migration, the countries of origin, and the working and living conditions of migrants in Greece. Where are the foreigners who were trained to staff public services as cultural intermediaries (if in fact any of them were trained) with money from the Equal program?»