Despite the crisis, the population and workforce kept growing with more immigrants and asylum seekers, as Greece becomes one of Europe’s major countries of transit and destination, partly due to EU policies (e.g. Dublin II). After previous governments’ limited integration actions (e.g. Estia programme), Greece made the greatest overall progress of any MIPEX country (+10) with just 3 laws from the new government, though politicised among right-wing parties. Immigrants and their descendants may see slight improvements in all MIPEX areas, except longterm residence and anti-
discrimination.To know whether these reforms are properly implemented in practice, Greece must develop a culture of using statistics and policy evaluation for integration.

Greece’s integration policies are now average for Europe, scoring in-between new countries of immigration in Southern Europe. Policies are also more coherent, with strands ranging from 40 to 57 instead of 18 to 56. Both political participation and citizenship were improved in the same law, with reference to European standards and established immigration countries’ policies. Where most European countries do best (family reunion, longterm residence, anti-discrimination), Greece only follows minimum standards from EU law.

Timeline - What's Changed

+1 December 2008
Long-term residence – conditions
Law 3731: Foreigners born in Greece become long-term residents at 18
+5 September 2009
Labour market mobility
Law 3801: Families equally access jobs
+2 September 2009
Family reunion
Law 3801: Families equally access jobs
+39 February 2010
Access to nationality
Law 3838: new procedures for newcomers and Greek-born children to access nationality
+33 February 2010
Political participation – electoral rights
Law 3838: Local electoral rights
+10 April–May 2010
Political participation - implementation policies
Internet and radio campaigns
+15 June 2010
Political participation – consultative bodies
Law 3852: New local integration councils

Key Findings

  • Ranks 16th, similar to European average and between new countries of immigration in South. 
  • Greatest legal progress of other countries (+10) on nearly all strands. 
  • Political participation: from weak to average. 
  • Progress on citizenship average for established immigration countries, especially eligibility for newcomers and Greek-born children. 
  • Labour market access still less favourable than for most countries, with limited access for non-EU residents and no policies targeting their specific challenges. 
  • Reunited families have better rights, but reunion procedures below European average, especially eligibility. 
  • Long-term residence unchanged, conditions some of most restrictive in Europe. 
  • Anti-discrimination definitions and fields below average. 
  • Greek schools face similar problems addressing diversity, as most in Europe.

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    New sources of inspiration

    Greece lags behind other new countries attracting labour migration on access and targeted measures. Labour market access in leading new labour migration countries, ES and PT, is much more favourable, with no restrictions on access to the public sector or self-employment (together with 9 other countries). While targeted measures are largely underdeveloped in Europe, many established countries set targets to help migrants into legal employment and training. New countries of immigration are increasingly introducing these nationwide economic integration programmes (e.g. EE, ES, PT).

    Despite slight improvements (see family reunion), Greece still provides non-EU residents slightly unfavourable access to employment and does little to address their specific job situation. Their legal opportunities for labour market mobility are far behind the average European country (see box). Non-EU residents with right to work can never access the public sector (as in only 9 others) and must fulfil additional obligations to open a business (7). According to law, all workers should enjoy equal working conditions, social security, and most mainstream support to improve skills and qualifications. Still, this support targets neither immigrants’ needs as foreign-born and -trained workers, or their specific vulnerability to exploitation, irregular and temporary jobs, and ‘brain waste’. 

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    Labour market opens up to families:

    Law 3801/2009 provides full access to employment for reunited family members. Its goal is to simplify the procedure and make it a quick and efficient service for migrants. Depending on implementation, this measure should help family members become less dependent on their sponsor and more active in the Greek economy. Under the previous regime, authorities had the discretion to grant labour market access to family members during the 1st year, depending on available vacancies, and often with delays.

    Ranked 24th, far below the average for Europe and new labour migration countries (e.g. CZ, IT, ES), Greece delays and discourages integration by keeping more family members apart and for longer. Eligibility is the major weakness. Only 8 other countries require sponsors to wait so long (2 years). Further administrative delays (far above Europe’s average procedural lengths of a year) mean they may be permanent residence permits (5 years) by the time spouses and minor children arrive, years behind their sponsor on integration. Parents and adult children are excluded, unlike in 20 other countries. Immigrants in only 5 face such steep income requirements as Greece’s. Families have average security but better rights since 2009 (See box). 

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    Under Greece’s average policies, all migrant pupils, regardless of status, access all school levels, as in half the MIPEX countries, but face similar problems as across Europe. Their progress in school can be facilitated by trained teachers and quality support to learn Greek. Still, each pupil is not entitled to targeted, on-going assistance, as in established immigration countries. Policies on immigrant languages, cultures and ‘intercultural schools’ could better support the social integration of all pupils and parents, with and without an immigrant background (see BE, Nordics, DE, ES, PT). Countries like ES and UK make intercultural education a dedicated school subject, while BE, NL, PT and UK better integrate it into school materials and activities.

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    Democratic opportunities open, slightly...

    Thanks to Law 3838/2010, longterm residents and 10-year permit holders can now vote locally. They can stand for some positions (excluding mayor or vice-mayor) once they have sufficient Greek knowledge for their tasks. Voting rights are presented as the most effective form of active integration, fighting social exclusion and promoting local governance. Local integration councils aim to record and investigate problems faced by permanently residing migrants and strengthen social cohesion. However, the 5 to 11 members may or may not be immigrants, but just municipal councillors.

    Like new immigration countries in past years, Greece made significant but limited progress (+15) to open average political opportunities (see box). Non-EU residents now enjoy limited active and passive voting rights, similar to recently reforming countries. Get-out-thevote campaigns may raise awareness by November 2010 elections. New integration councils, if implemented, may have weaker powers than similar new bodies (e.g. ES, PT). Still, they could inspire more democratic structures at national level, should government rethink the representation of immigrants themselves in the National Commission for Migrants’ Integration. The major weakness is no dedicated funding for an immigrant civil society that would actively inform immigrants and work on all issues of civic participation and consultation (e.g. PT). 

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    Facilitated long-term residence?

    The high cost (€900) and strict prerequisites meant hardly any applications in 2008. Law 3731/2008 (under the last government) did not address the real issue of residence security (only increased ‘conditions’ score by 1%). Greek-born migrant children become long-term residents as adults, once they complete their primary and secondary education in Greek schools. The subsequent Law 3838/2010, introducing birthright citizenship for second and third generation migrants, may have a more positive impact on their status.

    Successful candidates enjoy average security and equal rights as provided under EU law, but get this far with difficulty because conditions restrict literally the number of applicants who can succeed (see box). Law 3838/2010 reduced ‘exorbitant’ fees of €900 down to the more ‘realistic’ €600 – still much more than in nearly all 31 countries. Most countries require just a basic income and language knowledge. Only 7, including Greece, also require high incomes or specifically integration courses/tests. Immigrants in Greece must show 2 years’ revenue statements and pass ineffective integration requirements where annual quotas and long waiting lists for free recognised classes deny access to eligible non-EU residents (see instead CZ, DK, FR, LV, PT, RO). 

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    Reasons for reform

    Law 3838/2010 was presented as a ‘pressing national interest for security and social cohesion’. It emerged from NGO campaigns (‘Greek you are born AND you become’), recommendations from the Ombudsman and National Commission for Human Rights, and public consultation involving comparisons with other countries. For instance, the law draws inspiration from DE reforms (just 2 points away from Greece’s new MIPEX nationality score).


    Better scoring tests?

    New Citizenship Acquisition Commissions limit authorities’ discretion on assessing immigrants’ language (required in most countries) and general knowledge (in 17 others). The new system aims to better assess individuals’ ‘qualities and abilities for living together, smooth social integration and capacity to participate in political life.’ Though it hopes to ‘rationalise the process’, only implementation will tell whether applicants find that the Commissions use professional standards (e.g. A2 for language knowledge) and support all to pass, as elsewhere (e.g. free courses and questions in AT, CA, LU, US).

    Greece’s immigrants enjoy much better integration opportunities today largely because they can better become full citizens (see box). Law 3838/2010 more than doubled the MIPEX score. Greek citizenship transformed from the 3rd most exclusionary of all 31 MIPEX countries to become average among major immigration countries like FR, DE, UK and US.

    Immigrants and their descendants are now better eligible for nationality (+70), as in established and reformed immigration countries. The law considered that all children born in Greece deserve to grow up there like Greek children, without greater administrative obstacles. The third generation is now treated equally as Greek at birth, while the second is too, but upon application and some conditions. Following European trends, reforming countries introduce some birthright citizenship (now 14) as they recognise themselves as countries of immigration (see DE, PT, LU). Immigrants’ descendants are now automatically dual citizens (as in 11 others).

    The first generation also enjoys better opportunities to naturalise, but only for a limited time and under restrictive conditions, due to political backlash from the right and far right. Under transitional arrangements, immigrants can apply after 5 years, standard in 7 other established and reforming immigration countries. Afterwards, the wait will jump back up to 7 years plus a long-term residence permit. The improved conditions (+27) now meet the rather low European average. Vague ‘good moral character’ clauses are removed, while legal time limits are introduced to ‘stop unacceptable sources of continuous and systematic maladministration’. Applicants fulfil a slightly more favourable language/integration condition (see box). Still, Greek citizenship remains one of the most expensive in Europe, with ‘more realistic’ fees at €700 (previously €1,500). Fees are reduced for second applications and Greek-born children.

    Although reasoned decisions were introduced as constitutionally necessary and common practice in Europe, Greek applicants and new citizens remain the 2nd most insecure in the 31 MIPEX countries, along with CY, LT, MT, but above LV. Moreover, candidates have no entitlement to citizenship on meeting the conditions (as in 10, including reformers DE and PT). They can also become stateless for many reasons, even if a Greek citizen for years. 

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    As with long-term residence, Greece’s anti-discrimination policies are slightly weaker than average in Europe. Law only provides residents with the minimum EU standards. Unlike in 15 countries, nationality/citizenship discrimination is not explicitly prohibited in law, despite past recommendations from the Ombudsman. The public is not explicitly protected from racial profiling (see FR, UK). Victims have limited options to enforce their rights, facing a long process with no alternative dispute resolution (unlike in 19 countries) or class actions (unlike 14). They may get NGO help and State aid but cannot rely on the equality body since the Ombudsman can neither instigate its own investigations/proceedings nor enforce these specific findings (unlike 13 countries).