National Elections 2019 | Asking the parties, what do they think on integration

In light of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, Generation 2.0 RED, in collaboration with Vouliwatch, put forth the following questions to all the democratic candidate parties regarding specific immigration and refugees related integration policies in Greece.

The choice of questions was based on (a) the issues we have been working on the past few years and which we deem outstanding (b) the programs of the political parties as they have been made public so far given that any discussion on “immigration” moves de facto either with a negative or with a positive predisposition but with vague references.

In this way, we hope to highlight the issues that afflict a large number of people living in Greece yet are not mentioned and we look forward to a commitment on the issues mentioned below.

  1. Obstacles in the issuance and renewal of residence permits

In recent years, there has been an observable reel back to a previous era, as third country nationals are faced with services incapable of providing adequate service within a reasonable time frame, resulting in third country nationals have to live in a precarious situation of permanent temporality. The delays in the servicing of applications appear to be a direct result of the understaffing of the services, which particularly in the larger cities appear to be depopulated due to staff exchanges.  

QUESTION: What measures will you take to support the Immigration Directorates towards effectively implementing immigration law and protecting the rights of its beneficiaries?

  1. Citizenship

Despite the existence of a sufficient legal framework, problems continue to exist, and the procedures are progressing against great bureaucratic difficulties. In the granting of citizenship for the second generation, even though the Law 4332/2015 was passed, there are still extreme delays in the processing of applications in some Citizenship services in the country. What is more, delays continue even after the acquisition of citizenship. In the procedure of naturalization for third country nationals, in addition to similar delays in the processing of applications, the reform under Law 4604/2019 regarding the prerequisites and the procedure itself, to this day remains incomplete as the necessary Ministerial Decisions have not been issued.

QUESTION: How will you tackle the above-mentioned issues of delays and other substantive pending issues against the validity of the procedure itself and the legal protection of the candidates?

  1. Fees

The Law 2018/2011 states that a part of the revenue from the fees for residence permits may be allocated to technical equipment, operational expenses and actions of social integration of immigrants. However, in recent years, the development of a particular logic has been observed involving the use of these funds for financing refugee related issues i.e. compensating the local population in the islands.

QUESTION: The fees ought to be remunerative. What measures will you take to ensure that they are used to fund the understaffed services as well as activities of social inclusion?

  1. Revision of the constitution-voting rights

In 2010, the participation of immigrants in the 1st level of local elections was regulated under Law 3838/2010 under a number of conditions. However, with the decision 460/2013 of the Council of State, certain provisions of the law, along with those which provided for the participation of immigrants in local elections, were ruled unconstitutional and repealed by an amendment in early 2014. Today, the voting rights of immigrants once again has been tabled by the previous Constitutional Review Committee for the next Parliament, which will also be responsible for the final decision.

QUESTION: The next Parliament will be revisional and 180 votes will be needed for this particular provision. What will be your position when you are called to vote on the local level voting rights of all the long-term residents of this country?

  1. Stance on undocumented migrants

By examining the statistics of the Asylum Service, and in particular the percentage of rejections, it is clear that a large number of asylum seekers will fall under the status of ‘undocumented migrants’. This status also includes third country nationals who had a residence permit for work however due to the crisis, were unable to maintain this residence permit resulting in finding themselves without any form of legal documentation.

QUESTION: Given the presence of a number of people without legal documentation, what kind of policies do you intend to exercise for this particular category of people living in the country?

  1. Manolada – Compliance with the ruling of the ECHR

On March 30, 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) convicted Greece for violating Article 4 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) regarding forced labor in the well-known case of Manolada. From our regular monitoring of Generation 2.0 RED of the working and living conditions of migrant agricultural workers in Manolada, Ilia, it is clear that the issue of compliance with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights remains.

QUESTION: What measures will you take for the immediate compliance with the decision of the ECHR? What policies are you planning in order to prevent similar phenomena in the future?

  1. Undeclared work

In certain sectors the undeclared employment of migrants plays a central role, particularly in those which favor the growth of the shadow economy and the widespread demand for unskilled labor. Sectors such as construction, small and medium-sized manufacturing industries (clothing), housing maintenance and repair, agriculture and livestock farming, elderly and child care, domestic work (especially informal employment through employment agencies often with illegal retention of money), cleaning (with the transfer of workers to multiple employers), tourism as well as the food trade. Due to their residence status, which may be precarious, immigrants are particularly vulnerable with a risk of being exposed to deplorable working and living conditions, low wages and uninsured work.

QUESTION: What type of legislative approaches would you adopt to tackle undeclared work? How will you ensure the implementation of the existing legislation and the required monitoring mechanisms?

  1. Equal treatment in social security and welfare

According to the legislation in force (Law 4387/2016), those who are unable to prove 40 years of permanent residence in Greece receive a reduced pension in the ratio of 1/40, for each missing year. This is an issue which concerns immigrants, co-ethnic Greeks as well as Greek citizens of migrant origin, as for all of them permanent residence is counted on the basis of the residence permits they had in the country. It is well known that the first coordinated process for legalizing immigrants started in 1998 (according to Presidential Decrees 358/1997 and 359/1997). Therefore, for the abovementioned groups of the population, the already low national pension is halved, even if the necessary stamps have been accrued.

In regard to welfare, an example of the unequal treatment of immigrants is the fact that, as a result of the conditions, long-term residents (holders of the ten-year residence permit or even the permit for the second generation) with disabilities are either deprived of the appropriate benefits or are obliged to change their residence status to shorter-term residence permits with no right to work.

QUESTION: What measures will you take either as the ruling party or the opposition, for the equal treatment in social security and welfare?

  1. Safe Living Conditions-Integration Strategy

With the decision of the Ministry for Immigration Policy no. 6382/2019 temporal limitations on accommodation and allowances of beneficiaries of international protection came into effect according to the date of acquisition of refugee status, without however the necessary conditions to allow their autonomy being provided for. This move, as well as the lack of a national integration strategy (as the final version has not been published), puts into jeopardy the safe living and inclusion of this particular population in Greek society.

QUESTION: What actions will you take to ensure the institutional protection of such vulnerable populations by providing an appropriate economic, welfare and supportive framework?

  1. Education

Under the current legislation, every child in the country has the right to access school education irrespective of the legal status of their parents. According to UNICEF’s estimate, as of the end of April 2019, 28,500 refugee and immigrant children are in Greece. Despite the efforts of the relevant bodies to facilitate their integration, access to education for a large number of these children is still limited.

QUESTION: How will you ensure that all children of refugees and immigrants in the country are enrolled in schools? What measures will you take to prevent the dropout of these children?

Generation 2.0 for Rights, Equality & Diversity is a nonprofit organisation consisted of people with different origins who work together to promote the equal participation of all communities in Greece in a diverse society. In particular, it is an organization which, among other activities has highlighted and fought for the rights of socially vulnerable groups.

Vouliwatch (“Vouli” means Parliament in Greek) is a non-partisan parliamentary monitoring organisation that was set up and legally registered in Athens in March 2014 in response to the rising disillusionment of a large segment of the Greek population towards parliamentary democracy and the broader Greek political system. The organisation’s main goal is to bridge the gap between citizens and their political representatives whilst promoting a culture of transparency, accountability and active citizenship.