Migrant children marginalized

Tens of thousands of children of immigrants who were born in Greece, speak Greek and regard themselves as Greeks face the real risk of marginalization as they continue to lack citizenship and basic rights, experts have told Kathimerini, noting that a government program heralded last year for the social integration of migrant children has had scant success. A reform passed through Parliament last year, aimed at granting the children of immigrants the benefits of long-term residence status, only resulted in three applications from more than 80,000 potential beneficiaries, sources have told Kathimerini. The lack of response is being attributed to the strict prerequisites of the legislation. It demands that both of the child’s parents have legal status at the time that the application is lodged and that the child has completed nine years of compulsory education. The application also requires the payment of a 900-euro fee for each child. Those aged over 18 and those who were born in another country and moved to Greece in infancy are not eligible. According to Ahmet Moavia, head of the Greek Migrants Forum, these children are erroneously categorized from the outset. «The term ‘second generation immigrants’ is not correct, as these children have never been immigrants, they have lived here all their lives and this is the only country they know,» Moavia said. He added that many such individuals who are now over the age of 18 and jobless face the risk of arrest for illegal residence, as they are not eligible to apply for long-term residence status. According to Sonia Mitralia, coordinator of a campaign called «No to Racism from the Crib,» children of migrants face problems well into their adult life. «Apart from the insecurity they feel, these children face serious problems in the labor market; they often cannot practice the skills they have learned and are forced into low-paying jobs,» Mitralia said. Last week, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos heralded a program of social integration for migrants, including Greek language and history lessons for migrant mothers and a public awareness campaign. The minister also revealed that the European Commission has earmarked 26.2 million euros to help Greece deal with migration, legal and illegal. Of this, 3.46 million euros is said to have been set aside for this year. But the minister did not determine what proportion of this funding would go toward social integration and what toward plans for the creation of five reception centers destined to accommodate thousands of illegal immigrants.

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