The Greece-born children of immigrants will get citizenship
PM George Papandreou and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
GREECE is striking out in a new direction in its immigration
thinking and policymaking, Prime Minister George Papandreou told
hundreds of government delegates from around the world meeting in
Athens for the Global Forum on Migration and Development.
“The issue of immigration is close to every Greek’s heart,”
Papandreou said on November 4. “I can easily say there is no Greek who
hasn’t been either a migrant or a refugee.”
Immigration policy reform is one of the socialist government’s top
priorities, said Papandreou, whose leadership is viewed by most pundits
and political insiders as an opportunity for the country’s hundreds of
thousands of immigrants and refugees to put down roots in Greece.
Papandreou, who has repeatedly stated his commitment to
overhauling existing legislation, announced plans for Greece to become
more generous with issuing permanent and long-term residence permits to
non-European Union nationals and granting them the right to vote in
local government elections. Another top priority is granting Greek
citizenship to the Greece-born children of immigrants, he said.
As regards the fight against illegal immigration, Papandreou
stressed the need to deal a blow to human traffickers by creating a
legal system of immigration and improving the country’s hotly debated
and heavily criticised asylum policy.
Situated on the southeastern periphery of the European Union,
Greece is a frontline country in the fight against illegal immigration
into Europe. The number of illegal immigrants arriving in the Balkan
nation has surged over the past year.
The global economic crisis is having a worrisome impact on
immigrants, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the
forum, an annual event launched three years ago by the UN leader’s
“Unemployment rates are unusually higher among migrants,” Ban said.
He warned the global recession will lead to a slowdown in
remittances, quoting figures published by the World Bank that suggest
such transfers from migrants to family back home could fall by 8
percent this year.
“Migrants often lack safety nets,” Ban added. “The crisis has also soured public perception. Migrants become easy scapegoats.”
In Greece, public opinion polls suggest Greeks want to see tighter
controls and fewer immigrants. For instance, the findings of an EU-wide
poll that was published by the European Commission, in January, reveal
a solid majority of Greeks is very concerned by immigration. Seventy
percent of Greeks polled cited immigration as their biggest worry.
According to data published recently by the United Nations, a
record number of people - more than 214 million - currently live
outside their homeland.
Ban said migrants contribute to the prosperity of their
destination countries, while playing a pivotal role in reducing poverty
in their countries of origin.
“Around the world... migration is a topic of debate,” Ban said.
“We cannot yet say that the rights of migrants are being fully
respected. Everyday thousands risk their lives in the hands of
smugglers. More can be done. Like so many of today’s global challenges,
migration cannot be addressed unilaterally. We must all work together.”
The UN chief also called on the world to urgently address the
consequences of climate change, which he said will lead to the forced
migration of environmental refugees.
“We are in a critical period,” he said. “Populations will relocate
due to more extreme weather, including prolonged droughts, storms and
He called for a climate change agreement at next month’s global climate conference in Copenhagen.