Citizenship bill made stricter

Second-generation immigrants who are hoping to obtain Greek citizenship under the new law proposed by the government yesterday discovered that the conditions for doing so are going to be substantially stricter than had originally been announced. PASOK submitted the revised bill to Parliament yesterday and it soon became apparent that some of the draft law’s provisions have been tightened up following a period of public consultation during which there were many objections to what some people regarded as the ease with which citizenship would be awarded. Under the new provisions, a child born in Greece to immigrant parents will need to have had both his father and mother living in the country legally for five years before he or she can apply for citizenship. Originally, only one parent would have had to be a legal resident. Also, the children will have to prove that they have spent at least six years in Greek schools rather than the three years originally proposed by the government. In another major change to the initial plans, applicants will also need to produce recommendation letters from three Greek citizens. The proposed law would still allow second-generation immigrants to vote in local elections and to stand as city councilors after obtaining citizenship and proving that they have a good command of Greek. The Interior Ministry estimates that the bill would allow more than 250,000 people to join the electoral register after gaining citizenship. Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis said that the imminent law would apply to any immigrants who obtained legal status up to January 2005. Despite the stricter measures contained in the new bill, New Democracy still criticized the draft law for being too lax. «Every immigration measure that the government has announced so far constitutes the lowest threshold anywhere in Europe for awarding citizenship to immigrants,» said ND spokesman Panos Panayiotopoulos. Meanwhile, the Church of Greece’s Holy Synod said it believes the bill does not effectively tackle the country’s immigration problem. «The citizenship bill does not directly respond to the immigration problem, so the state has to carefully study the conditions under which citizenship will be granted,» the statement read. «At the same time, though, it has to approach the immigration issue with seriousness, taking into account the sensitivities and particularities of certain parts of our homeland and the possible effect it will have on the general population.»

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