OPINION

Immigration policy

The long queues and the huge amount of red tape that immigrants in Greece have to face in order to renew their residence permits has resulted in a chaotic situation. In some cases, the delays are so lengthy that the permits have expired by the time the applicants actually get their hands on them. What is called for is not just to come up with any solution to the problem that covers up the inconsistency of government policy. Any settlement must be conductive to a broader migration policy – imperfect as this may be. Immigrants are necessary even to the most self-sufficient economies. This is even more the case in a globalized world like ours. Everywhere, however, the reception of immigrants takes place on the basis of comprehensive planning that pays heed to the needs of the domestic economy. Furthermore, any planning takes place according to specified principles that reflect, and implement, the hard or the soft line of the host country. It is hard to find a developed state with a complete absence of immigration policy and which has accepted a number of immigrants amounting to a tenth of its population, as Greece has over the previous decade. The absence of an immigration policy is the main reason for the size of the immigrant-related problems in Greece today. One needs no special sociological insight in order to understand that the unchecked influx of hundreds of thousands of surplus immigrants, which the local economy is unable to absorb, will eventually lead to their exploitation or force them into illegal and criminal activities to ensure their subsistence. The year 1997 saw the first attempt to legalize immigrants, but the results were poor. A second step was taken with a 2001 law, but again its provisions proved ineffective. This time, the government must act in a cool-headed and responsible fashion. Above all, it must not abandon its efforts for streamlining the legal framework regulating the stay of immigrants in our country. The Greek government must avoid any spasmodic reaction to the confusion that it itself has created and remove all the parameters that have put the breaks on an effective immigration policy.