OPINION

Migration policy

Unchecked flows of illegal migration pose a global challenge. The truth is that in Greece, a relatively small country, the clandestine influx of migrants has taken on unnerving proportions. Greece’s geography and ill-prepared state apparatus have rendered the situation irreversible. Deporting the hundreds of thousands of foreigners who have chosen to settle here without obtaining the necessary residence and work documents is a non-starter for humanitarian and social reasons. The only realistic way to sort out the mess is to streamline the legalization process. A few years ago, the former Socialist administration tried to restore order by beginning an indiscriminate legalization process. PASOK’s initiative was soon caught up in an endless bureaucratic mill. In the end, the problem was largely recycled. The conservative bill that the Interior Ministry is expected to submit to Parliament is intended to provide a final solution based on an integrated migration policy. The introduction of a single work and residence permit and the allocation of responsibility to the regions should both help to reduce some of the red tape. But the state must ensure that the responsible agencies have enough staff to be able to respond to the huge number of applications. This is to be the third and last chance for any migrants who still don’t meet the legal prerequisites. Immigrants must seize the opportunity, for after that the state will follow a policy of zero tolerance. Or so the government has pledged. Migrants have for many years constituted a constant source of illegal labor. Their large numbers have helped to trim costs in various sectors of the economy but, at the same time, have generated many social problems that have mostly affected the lower-income groups. Legalizing migrants alone is not enough. The state must screen newcomers and make sure that it puts the lid on the illegal entry of migrants. Taking in more migrants than the economy can absorb will merely recycle the problem of illegal labor and exasperate social problems.