Plan to integrate migrants

The Interior Ministry will launch a program aimed at helping to integrate the country’s 900,000 legal foreign residents into the community through initiatives in education and employment, according to Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos. The 2007-2013 program will cost 50 million euros in the first year and will be mostly funded by European Union funds. «It is the first complete program put together with the object of smooth and fast induction into the community of migrants that legally reside in our country,» said Pavlopoulos. «The basic innovation is in connecting migrants with growth and prosperity in all sectors,» he added. Attica, central Macedonia, the Peloponnese, Crete and central Greece are home to the largest populations of foreigners. Nearly six in 10 of the country’s new residents come from Albania, according to the ministry, with Bulgarians, Romanians and Ukrainians next on the list. An influx of immigrants into Greece between 1991 and 2001 caused the population to swell by around 700,000 and at least another 170,000 are believed to have settled since 2001, according to the Hellenic Migration Policy Institute (IMEPO). Greeks have so far been divided as to their stance on migrants. A VPRC poll earlier this year showed more than half (54 percent) of those polled said they thought immigrants had boosted the Greek economy, while 56 percent blamed them for the country’s high jobless figures. Just over 60 percent believe that migrants should be allowed to vote, while only 47 percent said they should have the right to to run as political candidates. According to the Interior Ministry, the new program, titled Estia, will also aim at stamping out incidents of racism and xenophobia by raising community awareness on migrant issues. The Interior Ministry also said it will set up a migrant policy and social induction department.