Bid to socially integrate migrants

Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou yesterday heralded a pilot program for schools that have a large population of second- and first-generation immigrants with the aim of teaching these children their parents’ mother tongue. The aim would be to introduce language lessons to the syllabus of these schools from the coming academic year, Diamantopoulou told an international conference on immigration and economic and social policy in Athens. The conference, which was attended by government officials, unionists and academics from Greece and other European countries, broached a range of issues relating to the integration of Greece’s immigrant population – a point of discussion since last week when the government submitted to Parliament a bill aimed at granting the children of immigrants in Greece greater rights. One proposal embraced by most of those in attendance regards adult migrants taking Greek-language courses. It was suggested that universities and colleges offering these courses should henceforth be obliged to grant certificates to immigrants who successfully complete their studies. Another measure, proposed by Labor and Social Insurance Minister Yiannis Loverdos, aims to boost the social integration of thousands of migrants currently lacking residence permits while also boosting state coffers by getting them to pay social security contributions. «Our basic aim is to legalize between 100,000 and 150,000 illegal immigrants who are currently working,» Loverdos said. «It is important that we bestow legitimacy on something that is already happening,» the minister added. Pedro Almeida Freire, the head of Portugal’s Confederation of Commerce and Services, who was also at the meeting, noted that legalizing immigrants in his country had brought positive results. «The legalization of migrants and granting of citizenship in Portugal was a very good move. Lots of problems disappeared,» he said.

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