NEWS

Immigration policy overhaul

Greece’s attempt to balance the modernization and simplification of its labyrinthine migration laws with stricter penalties for illegal immigration and human trafficking was presented as a bill to Parliament yesterday. The submission of the draft law by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos is especially timely, since migrants now make up over a 10th of the country’s population. The bill introduces a series of measures that aim to strangle the bureaucratic leviathan facing the more than 1 million migrants living in Greece. It also helps bring Athens in line with EU regulations on migration. The bill seeks to achieve this mainly by combining residence and work permits into one document and application process. The permits will then be issued by the general secretaries at one of Greece’s 13 regional authorities. This move bypasses the need for several ministries and local authorities to be involved in the process, as is the case now. The new permits will, in due course, also last two years instead of one. The permits will be handed out using strict guidelines. These rules are intended to tailor immigration to the country’s labor needs and discourage migrants from choosing Greece randomly as a destination. At the end each year, a special committee of regional authority members will compile a report outlining the job vacancies in each area. This report will be passed onto the Labor Ministry, which will issue a ruling setting out the maximum number of permits that will be issued for each region and nationality of migrant, as well as the type and duration of work. Employers wishing to hire migrants will have to submit an application to their local authority based on the parameters set by this list. In total, 30 different types of the new permit will be available for issue, including those that will be given out for humanitarian reasons and those for victims of human trafficking. The bill also seeks to crack down on the growing trend of human trafficking and illegal immigration in Greece. Migrants without the right paperwork will face a minimum three-month prison sentence and 1,500-euro fine. Employers using illegal workers could be fined up to 15,000 euros. If a suspect is found to have forced a migrant into prostitution, he will receive at least two years in jail and a 6,000-euro fine. Traffickers will be fined between 15,000 and 50,000 euros and given at least a two-year jail sentence for each migrant they are found to be smuggling into the country. Ship captains, airline pilots and truckdrivers are also liable if they are found to be carrying illegal immigrants under the draft law. Pavlopoulos said that, if passed, the law will go into effect on January 1 next year and will provide amnesty to up to 500,000 migrants thought to be living in Greece illegally. These migrants will get the chance to obtain temporary permits before legalizing their stay. Migrants who have been in the country legally for over five years will have their permits renewed automatically while those who have had a 10-year stay can obtain an indefinite permit. Also, immigrants who can guarantee that they can financially support their families will be allowed to be reunited with them in Greece.