Interior Ministry considering further legalization drive

Italy has made 12 organized legislative efforts to provide immigrants with legal status, and Spain has made three attempts to record its immigrant population. In these countries, as in all those that have witnessed an influx of foreigners, 90 percent of the initial entries were illegal. Due to the fact that 15 years after the first large groups of immigrants began to arrive, and despite two attempts to give them legal status, Greece still has about 400,000 illegal immigrants, the authorities appear to be heading toward a third drive to give them legal status. The Interior Ministry is looking into the issue but its main concern is above all to acquire a complete record of the immigrants in Greece and secondly to find a way to accord them legal status without triggering another mass influx. Comprehensive review The operation will be part of a complete overhaul of immigration policy. According to ministry sources, however, any further legalization process will be much more cautious and could comprise several stages and categories. For example it could, under careful control, legalize a category of workers who would enter the country for a specific period of time after which they would have to return home. Or it could consider cases of people who have been in Greece for many years but for some reason or another had not been included in the previous efforts at legalisation. Zavos, the IPI’s director, is in favor of a re-examination of the policy to give illegal immigrants residence status but pointed out that there would be both advantages and disadvantages. The presence of illegal immigrants, he said, boosts the black market, with serious repercussions on many aspects of the country’s growth. On the other hand, a new legalization process could lead to a fresh influx. The Council of Europe, in a report on immigration in Greece, is in favor. The European Commission against Racism’s third report on Greece suggests that procedures for legalizing immigrants be expanded, since many of these people are «in an uncertain, if not precarious, position with regard to their ability to remain in the country.»