There seems to be a huge amount of talk about changes that Pasok (the recently elected socialist government in Greece) are keen to bring in. I sincerely hope that this is more than just chatter. There are many thousands of children born here to immigrant parents waiting to be granted citizenship.
I have a friend who went through ten years of bureaucracy and rejection before finally being granted citizenship here despite having been born and educated here. At eighteen, his status changed to illegal immigrant and he could not work, open a bank account, get a drivers licence or any of the things we take for granted. He managed to get temporary residency that had to be renewed intervals, the psychological toll was horrific. He felt rejected by the only country that he had known. The message he recieved loud and clear was “You will never be Greek. We will grant you permission to stay but only if you jump through these hoops as many times as we see fit”.
When the final stage of the citizenship process arrived, he had to study for the exam. This is supposed to determine your knowledge of Greek history, culture and politics and ultimately, his “Greekness”. We (foreigners and Greeks alike) were stunned by the questions he was asked. How many of my Greek friends could answer the mock tests questions correctly ? None. Not one.
My friend has citizenship now but it is his turn to do the rejecting. This bright young man is leaving at the first opportunity he gets. Very sad indeed.
A generation of migrant children who were born and raised in Greece but never officially recognised will be granted Greek citizenship, the newly elected socialist government has announced.
The step – part of a wide-ranging overhaul of immigration policies long condemned by international organisations – could affect up to 200,000 children who though Greek in everything but name have never been afforded nationality.
“This country can no longer go on being a hell for migrants,” said Michalis Chrysochoidis, the minister in charge of the newly created citizens’ protection ministry. Human rights activists say the measure will overturn a “surreal” situation where children whose immigrant parents have legally settled in Greece are treated as “aliens” with no rights at all.
“Absurd is too light a word to describe the lot of these kids,” said Petros Papaconstantinou, a prominent anti-racism spokesman. “Even if born in Greece, even if they attend Greek schools and speak only Greek, which invariably is the case, on paper they don’t exist at all.”
Without official documentation the children were often subject to abuse, arrest and deportation at the age of 18, he said. “There are children whose parents are from Africa, Asia and countries like Albania who are enrolled at schools across Greece but who have no papers whatsoever. In Europe this is unique.”
Under the reforms, unaccompanied children held in overcrowded detention centres will also be released. In recent months there have been a series of rebellions in migrant camps on Lesbos and other Aegean islands, often led by minors protesting against poor living conditions.
While other parts of Europe have seen a decline in illegal immigration, Greece has experienced a 50% surge, with its easternmost islands bearing the brunt of the influx. Most of the migrants, who cross over from Turkey, are from Asia, Africa and countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. “Greece remains the main entry point for illegal immigrants into Europe,” said Gil Arias Fernandez, the deputy director of Frontex, the EU border agency.
While Turkey has been criticised for failing to stop the flow, Greece has also been denounced for its “inhuman” handling of migrants. Human rights groups accused the former conservative government of illegally expelling thousands across the border into Turkey.
Following the death of a Pakistani immigrant in police custody in Athens last week, the socialists also plan to integrate immigrants into the police and place psychologists at stations nationwide.