The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

Citizenship Battles

Via the Athens News

A SHOWDOWN is looming over a historic overhaul of Greece’s decades-old system of citizenship rules on the naturalisation of immigrants and their children.

Ruling socialist Pasok on February 8 tabled a watered-down version of a bill aimed at putting most children of immigrants who were born and raised in Greece on a path to citizenship.

Based on the draft law, the Greece-born children of immigrants will become eligible to acquire Greek citizenship at birth, provided both parents have been legally residing in Greece for at least five years. The preliminary version of the bill required that only one parent be legal.

The new bill also says immigrant children who were not born in Greece but who have completed at least six years of public schooling in Greece will also be eligible for citizenship. An earlier version of the bill had required only three years of schooling.

Slow down

But not so fast, critics say.
Main opposition New Democracy and rightwing Laos have both harshly criticised the proposed legislation, arguing it will create incentives for undocumented migrants to cross the border with their children.

Both parties also expressed concern the bill would give rise to “birth tourism” whereby foreign mothers who are pregnant come to Greece to have their children so they can become Greek citizens.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party (KKE) and leftwing Syriza blasted the government for making the rules tougher. They blamed Pasok and New Democracy for the country’s failed policies on immigrant integration.

No consensus

From right to left, the gulf between the two arguments is so vast and the politics of immigration so heated that the prospect of a consensus remains distant at best.

The immigrant-citizenship debate has been raging on for several years without resolution. Now the Pasok government appears determined to press ahead with its reform, regardless of the opposition.
The government has the numbers to bulldoze the bill through parliament.

Immigrants make up 10 percent of the country’s population.

By blood

Under existing law, Greece is a jus sanguinis, or “right of blood”, state that only recognises citizenship by blood. A person’s citizenship is determined by his or her parents’ citizenship, so only those with blood ties to Greece may be Greek citizens.

To be eligible, immigrants must prove they have lived in Greece legally for 10 years in the 12 years preceding the date of their application. They must be over 18, and they must not have a criminal record or a deportation order issued against them.

Refugees recognised under the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees can apply after five years. Foreigners married to a Greek can acquire nationality after three years, but only if they have a child of Greek nationality while married.

The Greece-born children of immigrants may apply for Greek citizenship through the process of naturalisation on their 18th birthday.

George Papandreou prime minister

Immigrants live with the day-to-day fear of losing their residence permit and find themselves on the margins of society – as if they came [to Greece] only yesterday.

Their children, the children who were born here, who know no other country, are growing up in fear that as soon as they come of age they will be forced to return to a foreign country that they do not know, or else find themselves in illegality.

An immigrant who was born and raised here needs 28 years in order to even apply for naturalisation. Is this in our country’s interest?

We believe that the bill provides us with a chance to carve out a smooth, secure and cohesive future. We also believe that it creates new opportunities. Greeks of Indian origin, Greeks of Albanian origin, Greeks of Filipino origin, Greeks of Ukrainian origin and so on, all proud of their Greek nationality.

Antonis Samaras New Democracy leader

The automatic granting of citizenship to immigrant children born in Greece… has two problems: One is that it will also benefit their parents – citizenship will not only be granted to the children. Secondly, it will make pregnancy a means of naturalisation.

Based on the proposed measures, if there is a future legalisation, immigrant children already born here [to undocumented immigrants] will be eligible for citizenship retroactively along with their parents. And this is how the automatic citizenship will become a real magnet for the mass influx of immigration.

Mr Prime Minister, we are proposing that the children born in Greece should become eligible for citizenship when they come of age. And that they should meet only two conditions: that they have completed the nine-year basic education… and that they renounce the citizenship of their parents.

Aleka Papariga KKE leader

So does integration mean that he who acquires [Greek] citizenship must forget that he is Albanian, Pakistani or I don’t know what? Are you serious?

Did the Greeks who became citizens abroad forget that they are Greeks? Why should members of our diaspora, who have been living abroad for 50 or 100 years, enjoy more rights?

There are people who have lived 10, 15 and 20 years in Greece and do not even have a residence permit. They have worked and contributed to this country, they have gone to school and they’ve learned Greek. These people are considered illegal.

We don’t consider citizenship a panacea. Citizenship, unfortunately, does not mitigate the rise of nationalism, nor does it wipe away slave wages.

We cannot support this bill, which is even worse than the first draft that was also problematic. But now you are making concessions to New Democracy and Laos.

Alexis Tsipras Syriza leader

I’ve been listening to you talk about illegal immigrants as if there is such thing as illegal people. I’ve been listening to you talk about sweep operations, as if people are garbage.

To all those who talk about illegal immigrants, just think that in each Greek family there is a former illegal immigrant. By the thousands, they packed immigration trains and refugee ships to go to Germany, to go to Europe and to America. In each Greek family there is a former illegal immigrant who is now a European citizen, a German citizen, a Belgian citizen, an Australian citizen and an American citizen.

It is hypocritical to applaud and be proud of high-ranking officials in Europe and America who are members of the Greek diaspora.

My dear colleagues, policymaking over the past years has been distorted, piecemeal and addressed the immigration phenomenon with fear.

Yiorgos Karatzaferis Laos leader

We want a referendum on the issue.
You speak about 534,000 legals. They are not legal, they are legalised. Only those who entered the country legally and who respect the laws of the country are legal. How many of them respected the country when they first set foot in the country?

Mr Prime Minister, for them – those who came legally – I automatically accept any kind of naturalisation procedure. But not for the others who came illegally…

In Greece, there are two things that nobody knows: the number of civil servants and the number of illegal immigrants.

So what are we going to do? In 10, 15, 30 years, they say, Greece will have three million immigrants. And if today the children are, an estimated 18,000 or 19,000, next year there will be 30,000 and one day we will have 200,000 and 300,000 and 400,000.

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  1. gurmit
    February 17, 2010    

    I was looking at the demographics of Greece based on January 2008. Right now it seems like there are more people dying than being born. The fertility rate per woman is also only 1.51, not enough to keep the population steady. As well, the people 65 or over make up nearly 19.1% of the population. In addition, the people from 15-64 make up 66.6% of the population but those who range from 60-64 are practically seniors too. I believe any country has the right not to let immigrants in if it doesn’t want, but what will Greece do without immigrants if it doesn’t do something about its negative population growth? Even now, as far as I can understand, immigrants are important for they do a lot of the jobs Greeks are not interested in doing. Just out of curiosity, what policies does the government have in place to provide incentives for Greek women to have more children? I read somewhere that the Greek government consulted people from American on this. In Canada, there are tax incentives of course and family allowance programs through which families receive money for each child until its 18th birthday depending on the family’s income. There is also some program in which the government helps contribute some money for the child’s education. As well, fathers and mothers with government jobs are allowed a year off with a good portion of their pay still being given to them. I’ve chosen thus far not to have any children (and am almost at the end of my biological clock) so I don’t quite know the details, but in general people with children are supported by the state for having children. A few days ago, a neighbour of mine started complaining to me about another neighbour, for being on social assistance and a single parent and yet getting pregnant again, with the fifth child, just to increase the amount of her welfare money. Quite frankly, I don’t care. It is not as if she won’t use the money on the children. If she doesn’t she will at least risk losing the children with all the neighbours who seem to resent her. So anyway, what is it like in Greece for families with children?

  2. PD
    February 17, 2010    

    I believe any country has the right not to let immigrants in if it doesn’t want, but what will Greece do without immigrants if it doesn’t do something about its negative population growth?


    The negative population growth is not a big deal.

    Wages will be forced upwards by markets demands…while real estate should become cheaper..This would be a good thing…and over time the trend will reverse itself.

    But if we let in hordes of immigrants (BTW many are unemployed, so its not like they are all these jobs in Greece) the prices will stay high and the economic pressure to limit family size (at least on those who have a sense of responsibility) will be there.

    And if we do need is we who should do the inviting and choosing where the immigrants come from.

  3. Gurmit
    February 18, 2010    

    Hey PD,

    We have this program in Canada for decades now for foreign farm workers. Tens of thousands of these workers come from Mexico and some South American countries as most Canadian do not want to broil in the hot sun and get wet in the rain picking produce for minimum wages for ten hours a day. It is clear to the workers that they can only stay up to eight months a year, their families do not come with them, and the people who hire them have to agree to pay their air fare both ways and provide free housing for them in all but one province (where wages are deducted for rent). They also have to arrange for them to be medically insured. I think it is a fair system. People know they can’t stay. The system works or it wouldn’t have gone on for fourty years now. When people are allowed to stay for long periods of time, other issues arise that call for humane treatment. Apparently, 61% of your Greek people do sympathize with second generation immigrants for the citizenship issue. I wish your country peace and prosperity.

  4. Xenos
    February 18, 2010    

    The fact is, Gurmit, that the dependency ratio is a massive issue for Greeks but they are too caught up in their nationalistic mindset to see it. By 2020, pensions will be 25% of GDP even with the pitiful pensions that the majority get (unlike the corrupt minority who earn double from pensions what they got in wages); there is no investment in the Greek economy to speak of, largely because of corruption and poor business habits, so there will be no jobs; and wages are very low for skilled people, and overhigh for useless people.

    Greece had its only modern period of economic growth off the backs of mass (illegal) immigration in the 1990s, but Greeks just don’t get it. Until there is a culture change, the third world economy mentality, along with nationalistic garbage. means that Greece is likely to be expelled from the Eurozone. I cannot see any chance of improvement with current attitudes, striking and whining all the time that they want money for doing nothing.

  5. Cinzano
    February 18, 2010    

    Until there is a culture change, the third world economy mentality, along with nationalistic garbage.

    Southern Europeans do not need to change their sophisticated culture to a culturally inferior one based on the “British” model.
    British culture, based on boozed-up titheads, teenage pregnancies, disrespect for the elderly and schoolkid gang culture, needs to learn from Greek culture, not the other way around.

  6. Xenos
    February 18, 2010    

    This has nothing to do with the UK and nobody mentioned that country. The southern European countries, along with Germany, have the worst problem with low birth rates in the entire world. Greece is unique in Europe for its corruption levels, though, even compared with Italy and Spain. The state bears comparison with the “stan countries” and not with other southern European states.

  7. Daniel
    February 18, 2010    

    @“It was the great ancient orator, Isocrates, who praised the intellectual achievements of Athens noting that the title of being Hellene became “a badge of education rather than of common descent.”
    As far as I can remember from school (in Buzumbura, we took Ancient Greek course) Isokrates says that “the foreigners say (alledge) that “Greek” is the one who takes part in Greek education” he did not say that Greeks say such a thing. I wonder if you understand Greek.

  8. PD
    February 19, 2010    

    and you know this for sure, because you studied corruption in Italy and Spain etc?

    And if you say the -stans are corrupt and we are like them..then you should be promoting a zero immigration policy from -stan countries.

  9. Cinzano
    February 19, 2010    


    The state bears comparison with the “stan countries” and not with other southern European states.

    Actually, Greece and Italy compares favourably to the “stans”, especially when compared to one of the most corrupt “stans” in the world – Londonistan.

    The British MP expenses scandal in the UK Parliament in Westminstan eclipses anything that southern European countries have done, or could ever do.