Urgent meeting of Generation 2.0 RED with the Secretary General of Citizenship on the latest developments
On the occasion of the recent publication of the document of the Secretary General of Citizenship (S.G.), Athanasios Balerbas regarding the non-recognition of the extension of residence permits in naturalization and second generation citizenship procedures, Generation 2.0 for Rights, Equality and Diversity had a meeting with him on Tuesday 07 July 2020. Our purpose was to receive clarifications on the above issue but also to be informed in relation to many other issues that have arisen since our last meeting, on November 1, 2019.
Document with instructions on the extension of residence permits in citizenship and naturalization procedures
Regarding the document, which does not recognize the extension of residence permits in the citizenship and naturalization procedures, thus freezing the possibility of submitting a new application and the issuance of final citizenship decisions, we expressed our deep concern, as these instructions come in direct opposition to the Decision of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum on the extension of residence permits. The S.G. informed us that the specific Ministry did not come in previous communication with him regarding the decision on the extension of residence permits and the responsibility lies with the ministry itself, as it should have passed the extension with an Act of Legislative Content. In any case, he was not aware that these instructions also affect the submission of new applications and promised to reconsider the issue.
Upcoming changes in citizenship procedures
During the meeting we asked for some additional information pertaining to the changes in the current system of granting Greek citizenship that the Ministry of Interior is expected to bring with a bill during the next period. As the Secretary General informed us, the purpose of the new system is to have transparency and objectivity in the procedures and to finally give a solution to the issue of thousands of pending cases.
1) Regarding the naturalization process, it is planned to be established a Panhellenic written competition that will be held twice a year. A “fee” will be foreseen for the participation in this competition, the amount of which has not been specified yet. Successful participation in the competition will ensure the possibility to apply for naturalization. For the preparation of the interested applicants, a pool of questions will be available on the website of the Ministry of Interior.
At this point – given that we are an Organization that has been dealing with naturalization and citizenship procedures for years and has the relevant experience – we have expressed our dissatisfaction with the fact that Civil Society is once again left out of the debate and contribution to the legislative process. We also stressed that our firm position on the procedure is the following: The primary criterion for the naturalization of a foreigner must be his real integration into Greek society, which often can not be captured through a standard examination process.
Thus, we expressed our concern that many – especially older ones – may be wronged by a new examination-based system. In this context, the S.G. informed us that the exams will be conducted orally for elderly people and for those with special learning difficulties. Finally, we expressed our objection to the existence of a “fee” for the written examination, since that automatically means an increase in beneficiaries total costs, considering the already high fee of 550 euros.
2) Regarding the second generation citizenship, two new directorates are expected to be established in Attica and Thessaloniki that will examine only the applications of this specific category, aiming at speeding up the procedures.
The S.G. informed us that the bill that will change the existing system, will be published to public consultation during summer and the Ministry will take into account the comments submitted by civil society.
Exclusion of children with disabilities from the citizenship procedure
Also discussed during the meeting was the repeal by Law 4674/2020 of the Ministerial Decision which specifies the necessary certificates and the application procedure for acquisition of Greek citizenship for children with disabilities. We expressed our concern on this issue, which leaves children with disabilities out of the process of acquiring Greek citizenship for an unknown period of time.
Regarding this, S.G. informed us that he has already contacted the Ministry of Labor and Health and expects to receive immediately a list of organizations and bodies whose certificates on applying for citizenship will be accepted.
Applicants’ information issues
Once again, we focused on applicants’ information issues which remain unsolved. In particular, the lack of an official website where all information related to the operation of citizenship services are published, has created serious difficulties in information, especially during the period of implementation of the restrictive measures against coronavirus (Covid-19).
Also, the lack of necessary documents in the website for the submission of citizenship (e.g. application form for second generation citizenship), but also the updated files with the supporting documents for the submission of applications, creates substantial difficulties for interested applicants, especially for those who are obliged to submit their requests by registered mail, as it is now conducted by several services due to Covid-19.
In our question about their stage in creating a new website (as we were informed during our last meeting), the S.G. acknowledged that the process has been significantly delayed for various reasons, but assured that they are in the process of elaborating it.
Lack of statistics
We have once more raised the issue of non-updating the statistics by the Directorate of Citizenship, which are an important source of information and are the basic guarantee of transparency in procedures in a modern state. In fact, we informed the S.G. that we have contacted the Directorate of Citizenship several times about this issue and the answer we received was that the problem is due to the non-renewal of the information system.
On this issue, he agreed that it is a problem that there is such a long delay in their publication. He informed us that the problem has been assigned to a company, which is in the process of continuous improvement of the information system and hopes that they will be published soon.
Naturalization of stateless people is a specific category in the citizenship Code, which is provided in article 5 of Law 3284/2004, assuming a previous residence of only 3 years with a Stateless Card. However, we realized through cases of stateless people, that this provision has remained in practice completely inapplicable in recent years, as it has not yet been determined which authority will issue the Statelessness Card required for the application.
From his part, S.G. undertook to examine this issue, in order to immediately create the competent service under the Asylum Service and proposed, as a temporary solution, to accept the certificate of objectively deprived of travel documents.
On our part, we will continue to monitor the above issues – as well as any new developments – to ensure the overall improvement of naturalization and second-generation citizenship procedures. As an Organization, we are always open to a dialogue with national authorities and public services, with the aim of defending the rights and empowering people with migrant background who live in the country for years.