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Foreign-born population – 2016

0.6 million, 54% women

6% of the population

Evolution since 2010: -22%

Main countries of birth:

Albania (48%), Georgia (7%), Russia (5%)

In 2017, 30 000 new immigrants obtained a residence permit longer than 12 months in Greece (excluding EU citizens), -31.9% compared to 2016. This figure comprises 6.7% labour migrants, 46% family members (including accompanying family), 2.8% who came for education reasons and 44.4% other migrants.

Around 800 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students (excluding intra-EU migration) and 4 800 to temporary labour migrants. In addition, 8 100 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2017, an increase of 27% compared to 2016. These posted workers were generally on short-term contracts.

In 2017, around 630 000 foreign-born persons were residing in Greece. Albania, Georgia and China were the top three countries of birth. Among the top 15 countries, Ukraine registered the biggest increase (6 000) and Albania the largest decrease (-25 000), compared to 2015.

In 2018, the number of first asylum applicants increased by 14.1%, reaching around 65 000. The majority of applicants come from Syria (13 000), Afghanistan (12 000) and Iraq (9 600). The largest increase since 2017 concerned nationals of Afghanistan (4 300) and the largest decrease, nationals of Syria (-3 200). Of the 32 000 decisions taken in 2018, 47% were positive.

Emigration of Greeks to OECD countries increased by 13.7%, to 54 000. Almost half (48.3%) migrated to Germany, 20.3% to the United Kingdom and 6.7% to the Netherlands.

In 2018, as part of the framework of the biennial procedure for determining volumes of admission, Greece updated the quotas for highly qualified workers, dependent employees, seasonal and temporary workers. At the same time, the EU Directive on intra-corporate transferees was transposed.

The duration of validity of the residence permit for exceptional reasons (case-by-case regularisation), was extended to three years and the conditions for granting the permit were amended so that the only conditions possible were either the proof of seven years continuous residence in Greece, or a parent-child relationship with a national minor.

In 2018 arrivals by sea were estimated at 32 500 persons, compared to 29 700 in 2017. The majority originated from Afghanistan (26%), Syria (24%) and Iraq (18%).

Law 4540/2018 established the possibility of participation of Greek-speaking EASO personnel in the regular procedure and transposed the recast Reception Conditions Directive. Moreover, a Joint Ministerial Decision was issued in August 2018 on the requirements for issuing visas to family members in the context of family reunification of refugees. In addition, a new guardianship law was adopted for the establishment of a protective mechanism for unaccompanied minors (estimated to be 3 741 on 31 December 2018).

Given that 2018 was the third year of implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, initially described as “a temporary and extraordinary measure”, the government initiated a set of measures in order to relieve crowding on the islands, improve the processing time of asylum applications, as well as the asylum legal framework. The amendments extended the fast-track asylum procedures on Aegean islands until the end of 2018.

The question of accommodation of new arrivals resurfaced with urgency as provisional camps in northern Greece reopened to accommodate irregular migrants and asylum seekers arriving across the Greek-Turkish land border in 2018. In the framework of the Emergency Support to Integration & Accommodation (ESTIA) programme, implemented by UNHCR, in cooperation with the Greek Government, local authorities and NGOs, accommodation and cash assistance is provided to refugees and asylum-seekers. Under this scheme, 22 700 persons were accommodated in December 2018 (5 700 refugees and 17 000 asylum seekers).

All refugees have the right to access public education in Greece. According to Greek legislation, education is compulsory until the age of 15. In January 2018, the government announced a pilot programme on language and cultural education for adult refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and for those aged 15-18 years. In July 2018, the new national strategy on the integration of migrants, beneficiaries of international protection and asylum seekers was approved by the Government Council and was opened to public consultation in 2019.

In 2018, Greece announced the intention to expand eligibility for its “Golden Visa” for investors; available since 2013 for real estate purchases of at least EUR 250 000. Additionally, since April 2019, it is also possible to make a capital investment in a Greek-operating firm of at least EUR 400 000, or equivalent purchase of Greek bonds or equivalent bank deposit, as well as purchase State or corporate bonds or stocks of EUR 800 000.

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Key figures on immigration and emigration - Greece
Key figures on immigration and emigration - Greece

Notes and sources are at the end of the chapter.


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