Citizenship rallies highlight division

The center of Athens was closed for several hours on Saturday as a protest by extreme nationalists against the government’s plans to grant citizenship to second-generation immigrants was countered by leftists who rallied in favor of migrants’ rights, highlighting the division in public opinion on the issue. Riot police were forced to intervene to keep protesters apart as the two groups gathered just a few meters from each other, at Kolokotroni Square and in front of the entrance to the University of Athens. There were no reports of injuries or arrests but the stand-off lasted for several hours, meaning that traffic and pedestrians had to use different routes. The rallies took place just a couple of days after PASOK unveiled stricter measures than originally planned for the awarding of Greek citizenship to children who have been born in the country to immigrant parents. 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 they have spent at least six years in Greek schools rather than the three years originally proposed. Speaking to Kathimerini, former Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that during the upcoming debate on the bill in Parliament, New Democracy will insist that immigrants have to be living 10 years legally in Greece before they or their children can apply for citizenship. «The question is: Will we keep giving citizenship to immigrants that once entered the country illegally?» he asked.

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