OPINION

A harmful, unjust hindrance

a-harmful-unjust-hindrance

When it is common knowledge that Greece has a demographic problem which constitutes an immediate threat, when we all know that in the past few years the labor market has been upended by the long crisis and the pandemic, one can only wonder why the Interior Ministry would choose to hinder people who are already here and want to be part of the country’s future from applying for residence permits or citizenship.

In a decision published in the Government Gazette in April, Minister Makis Voridis set out the economic criteria established by Law 4735/2020, according to which applicants must prove “adequate income” (depending on the category of immigrants to which they belong) for the past three years, for at least five of the past seven years, for at least the past seven years and (for those who had applied under a previous law) for at least five years since 2015. The bar is set at 7,800 euros annually.

A month before this decision, official figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) for the fourth quarter of 2020 showed that unemployment for people from third countries rose to 28.2%, compared to 15.5% for Greek citizens. In April, the Labor Institute of the General Confederation of Greek Workers’(INE-GSEE) reported that income reductions were greatest in the fields of agriculture, manufacturing, construction, commerce, restaurants, lodging and transport – all sectors in which immigrants are prominent.

The pandemic has compounded the effects of the crisis, costing many immigrants their jobs or reducing incomes when they are still employed. And so, apart from the other obstacles that people face in applying for residency permits or citizenship, the economic criteria could block their way completely. 

It is worth noting that Voridis annulled the change made by his predecessor, Takis Theodorikakos, who, in October, had replaced this part of the law with the stipulation that the interior minister would set economic criteria on the basis of specific conditions at the time.

It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that the insistence on prohibitive criteria aims at petty political gains at the expense of thousands of people’s hopes, at the expense of the spirit of renewal and self-confidence that Greece needs.