NEWS

Lawyers pick apart migrant law

Lawyers for migrants and refugees in Greece yesterday called on the government to rethink its immigration law, passed just two months ago, as it contains «traps» which will prevent many immigrants from obtaining their residence permits. The Lawyers’ Initiative for the Rights of Immigrants and Refugees said during a press conference yesterday that one of the key pitfalls of the new immigration law is that it only allows refugees who have had their applications for asylum turned down to apply for legal status. Out of some 53,000 applications for asylum submitted in Greece during 2005, some 700 have been turned down and 23 have been accepted while the rest remain outstanding, according to the group. The lawyers also pointed out that refugees are asked to present a number of official papers from their homelands despite having been driven out of those countries. The group said that any state documents issued during an application for asylum in Greece should be accepted as enough evidence. «There are several traps in the labyrinthine provisions of the new immigration law which could work against the legalization of migrants,» said lawyer Ioanna Kourtovik. There are over 1 million migrants living in Greece, around half of whom are thought to be lacking the correct paperwork. The immigration law passed by Parliament in August seeks to simplify the process by which residence and work permits are obtained by combining them into one document. The law also allows an amnesty for migrants without permits to apply for them by the end of the year, provided they can prove they have lived in Greece for over a year. However, the government last month accepted that it may tweak the legislation after complaints that the rules were too strict and would leave up to 70 percent of illegal immigrants out of the process. Migrants whose residence permits have expired are required to buy 300 social security credits before applying for a new permit while those who never had a permit have to buy 150 credits. The lawyers said both groups should only have to buy 150 credits.