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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Greece passes new legislation for undocumented migrants

Parliament has passed new legislation that aims to provide residence and work permits to tens of thousands of undocumented migrants.

Greece’s parliament has passed new legislation that aims to provide residence and work permits to tens of thousands of undocumented migrants. The legislation, drafted by the center-right government, responds to a shortage of unskilled labor in the country. The law links the right to residence with proof of employment, a step that could impact around 30,000 people, particularly those working in the agricultural sector.

Link Between Residence and Employment

The novel approach taken by the Greek government ties the right to residence for undocumented migrants to their employment status. This means that individuals seeking legal recognition must provide evidence of employment, addressing concerns about the potential strain on social services. The law comes into effect for migrants who have been living in Greece without residence permits for at least three years up to the end of November. However, it does not cover those who arrived after this period.

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Parliamentary Approval Amid Political Tensions

Despite grumbling from the right wing of the governing New Democracy party, Greece’s parliament overwhelmingly approved the legislation with 262 votes in favor. The government’s threat to expel lawmakers who did not support the measures underscored the significance of this policy shift. The backing of leftwing opposition parties contributed to a cross-party consensus, reflecting a shared understanding of the need to address the market demand for less skilled workers.

Migration Minister’s Vision

Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis praised the bipartisan support for the new law, emphasizing the government’s commitment to blending “strict border controls and fighting migrant trafficking with facilitating legal migration.” He assured that the legislation would not lead to illegal gains of Greek citizenship or family reunification rights. The permits granted under the law would be contingent on migrants’ continued employment, ensuring their integration into the workforce.

International Recognition 

The United Nations migration and refugee agencies lauded the legislation as a positive example of political will to lift barriers that render people invisible and marginalized. The International Organization for Migration and the UNHCR issued a joint statement highlighting the economic benefits for Greece and the protection it provides migrants from exploitation by legalizing their employment. The reduction of the waiting period for asylum-seekers entering the labor market from six to two months was also commended.

Greece’s Ongoing Role as a Key Entry Point

Situated in the southeastern corner of the European Union along the Mediterranean Sea, Greece remains a critical entry point for individuals seeking a better life in the EU. Despite a significant decrease in arrivals since the peak in 2015, the country has seen a recent uptick, with 45,000 people reaching its shores this year—the highest number in four years. The majority of arrivals come in small boats from neighboring Turkey to Greece’s eastern Aegean islands.

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While the new legislation addresses the issue of undocumented migrants, challenges persist. Some individuals remain in Greece illegally, contributing to the gray economy. Tragic incidents, such as the shipwrecks in 2015 and June of this year, highlight the risks faced by those attempting to reach Europe. The government’s efforts aim to strike a balance between controlling illegal migration and providing a legal pathway for those contributing to the country’s labor force.