The high cost of hope for immigrants

For years the process of giving economic migrants in Greece legal status has been a bureaucratic drama, often with no happy ending, and a financial drain on the resources of this vulnerable group of workers. Legal migrants are also not exempt as renewing residence permits can be just as troublesome. The new law (3386/2005) known as the «third legalization,» attempts to put some order into the situation but is actually full of flaws and ambiguities. Migrants who have provided all the necessary documents cannot apply to legalize their status because of the high cost of purchasing the required social security stamps and related fees that are high in proportion to their earnings. Young migrants who have grown up and gone to school in Greece still have no legal status. Mothers of children with legal status cannot obtain that status themselves. Lawyers are unable to place migrants within a legalization category, even though they might have been living here for years. Civil servants cannot find their way through the ambiguities of the law and are handicapped by their own lack of knowledge. Collecting all the required documents is a nightmare for migrants, as is evident from the number of applications that doubled after the first deadline set on December 12, 2005. Extensions to the deadlines have saved some migrants. By the final deadline of April 30, 2006,150,000 to 180,000 migrants are expected to have submitted applications. The others will wait until the government takes corrective measures. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos has himself declared «the law is open to corrections.»