More rights for migrants

Thousands of migrants who have been living in Greece for five or more years will be able to claim the same rights as Greeks in a number of areas after a new law came into effect yesterday. The legislation creates the previously non-existent category of «long-term resident» for migrants who have lived in Greece for at least five years in a row and are over 18 years old. To qualify for this category, migrants will have to declare an annual income of at least 8,500 euros, rising by 15 percent for each family member that person is providing for. Foreigners in Greece for studies or professional training or those who have only been issued a temporary residence permit cannot qualify for this category. Some 1 million migrants are estimated to be living in Greece. Of these, around half have either entered the country illegally or have yet to be given their residence permit or have it renewed. Other restrictions include the rule that immigrants must not have been away for more than six months consecutively or 10 months in total during the last five years. They will also be required to have full health insurance, speak Greek and know about Greek history and culture. The Education Ministry offers a course of 100 hours of language lessons and 25 hours of history and culture lessons for migrants. A certificate will be awarded at the end of the course, officials said but did not make clear how much the lessons would cost. The new regulations are included in a presidential decree which was published in the Government Gazette yesterday and makes Greece the fifth country in the European Union to adopt the relevant directive from Brussels. Migrants who fulfill the criteria for «long-term residents» will gain full rights in the workplace, including those relating to hiring and firing. The new law guarantees that the migrants’ professional titles and qualifications will be recognized. It also safeguards access to social security, education and professional training, as well as scholarship programs.

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