Migrants chase driving licenses

Four out of 10 learners at Greek driving schools are immigrants seeking to get their licenses in order to boost their file of official documents and improve their job prospects, experts have told Kathimerini. Between 35 and 40 percent of all driving school learners are foreigners, Giorgos Lekkas, president of the Panhellenic Federation of Driving Instructors, told Kathi-merini. He and others in the field estimate that the proportion of driving licenses granted to immigrants living in Greece ranges between 25 percent and 60 percent according to the region. In many cases the driving license is the first official document acquired by migrants struggling to acquire, or renew, temporary residence permits. Also many of them start off without any knowledge of the Greek language but manage to learn the ropes and secure their license through hard work. In recent years it is chiefly migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh that have been flocking to driving schools, Lekkas said. «They might not know the language very well but more immigrants than Greeks pass the road signs test on their first time – they want it so much so they try harder,» he said. The driving license is a valuable tool for migrants who must learn to survive in a bureaucratic system but it also makes them more employable at a difficult time in the job market. «With work on construction sites plummeting over the past few months, many foreigners, particularly Albanians, are trying to get equipped for other kinds of jobs,» said Thodoris Barogiorgas, the owner of a driving school in the central Athens district of Aghios Nikolaos which has a large immigrant population. Barogiorgas said the language barrier can initially be a problem but that the determination of most of his foreign clients usually paid off. «Often I have to explain the same thing three different times to ensure they have grasped it, which can be quite tiring, but most of them eventually pass the examinations,» he said. «I want to find work – that’s why I’m trying to get a driving license,» Mouza Abas, a 27-year-old Afghan told Kathimerini. «I am learning Greek and have applied for asylum but I want a driving license as many job applications ask for this skill,» he said.

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