What does it mean to be an immigrant in Greece?
After being in Greece for ten years, some are still without a ‘green card’, and must stay in the country a further two years to obtain a Greek passport.
According to the Greek Nationality Code (Law 3284/2004 – Government Gazette 217/Α/10.11.2004, Article 5, Naturalization requirements), a foreigner must remain seven years continuously and legally in the country before requesting Greek citizenship. The nationality laws were reformed in 2010 to relax some restrictions on immigrants, as a result of new data on the immigration economy. Immigration law and policy went through several changes since the 1990s, but immigrants of Greek origin have an advantage. This pattern of «jus sanguinis» (right of blood, citizenship defined by birth), also applies in many other countries. But during the past twenty years there has also been an increase in «de-ethnicisation» of Greek citizenship, which we can see in the reforms of 2010, which facilitated acquisition of citizenship and brought in characteristics of «ius soli» (law of ground, citizenship determined by the place of birth).
Even on the streets the problems of the economy are as visible in the shops of Ermou (one of Athens’ central shopping districts) as in the rest of the centre. The number of homeless people has increased to 20 000, according the NGO Klimaka.
Some immigrants try to earn a living by selling on streets between cars; you can see these “mobile shops” in Piraios Avenue, Thivon, Omonoia, Monastiraki. These people are as aware of the misfunctioning of the Greek State, and especially the economy, as the natives are. Survival is getting more difficult by the day.
With the exception of the added issue of citizenship, immigrants’ everyday problems are similar – if not identical – to those of Greek citizens.
Note: “Thank you” to my patient friends for proofreading.