NEWS

New migrant bill heralded

A new bill on immigration is to be submitted to Parliament within a few days, the government said yesterday as new figures showed that migrants living either legally or illegally in Greece now make up over a tenth of the population. «It is based on respect for immigrants, on their personality and on their ability to offer something to our country and to themselves,» said Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, commenting on the new immigration bill aimed at tackling the current bureacracy-ridden system. The minister, speaking at a conference in Thessaloniki organized by the Immigration Policy Institute (IPI), failed to give too many details about the impending measures apart from emphasizing the government’s intent to abolish work permits and merge them with residence permits. Pavlopoulos said that the bill would also aim to make it clearer to migrants what opportunities and facilities, such as social security, are available to them when they arrive in the country. «Greece is now a country that receives migrants and it needs to adapt as quickly as possible to this fact – especially as there are common immigration policies within the European Union with which we need to get in line,» said Pavlopoulos. Figures made public by the IPI yesterday showed that some 1.15 million migrants living in Greece made up 10.3 percent of the country’s population – over four times higher than in 1991. Between July 2003 and October 2004 over 700,000 residence permits were issued, over two-thirds of which were for migrants looking to work in Greece. Almost a quarter of migrants living legally in the country are thought to be in the Athens area. Most are from Albania (63.2 percent), followed by Bulgarians (9.8 percent) and Romanians (4.3 percent).