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Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Athens

image of Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Athens

Migrants, including native-born children with migrant parents, account for 23% of Athens’ population (664 046 people), while the number of refugees and asylum seekers has rapidly increased since 2015 and is currently estimated at 18 000. To respond to the refugee inflow, Athens developed bold and innovative initiatives, often beyond their direct responsibilities, and sought supra-national and non-state sources of funding (i.e. Stavros Niarchos Foundation, British American Tobacco, etc.). This emphasis on reception and integration of newcomers is the result of strong political will and cooperation with non-state actors, in line with the city's broader priorities since 2010 including anti-discrimination and improving equal access to social services. Integrating newcomers through jobs is particularly challenging given the high unemployment rate that Greece has experienced. In addition, newcomers often have the desire to continue their journey towards northern European countries, reducing their incentives to integrate and learn Greek.

While identifying various innovative practices, the OECD case study of Athens highlights the need for more reliable sources of financing and dialogue among levels of government. Data on migrant integration at the local level would support more evidence-based national, regional and local policy making.

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Migration legislation reforms

‘The first regularization programme to address illegal immigration was introduced in 1997 with Presidential Decrees 358/1997 and 359/1997. By the end of this programme, 371 641 immigrants had been registered for a temporary residence permit (or white card), but only 212 860 went on to receive a permanent residence permit (green card). It is estimated that less than half of the immigrants living in the country were registered during this first regularisation programme. In 2001, the government passed a new law regarding the entry, residence, and naturalisation of immigrants in Greece (Law No. 2910/2001). This act created another opportunity for immigrants to legalise their status, provided they could produce proof of residence for at least a year before the implementation of the law. Law 3386/2005 on the entry, residence, and integration of immigrants was introduced in 2005 and included another regularisation programme. The law stipulated that immigrants who had lived in the country through 31 December 2004 could be regularised under the condition they could prove their entry into Greece before that date. It also made the procedure for the issuance of residence permits simpler than the 2001 programme and incorporated the relevant EU directives on family reunification (Council Directive 2003/86/EC) and long-term resident immigrants (Council Directive 2003/109/EC). […] Law 3536/2007 introduced some changes: It abolished the regularisation fee for children between the age of 14 and 18, it gave immigrants the opportunity to pay for up to 20 percent of the 200 days of social insurance contributions required (two-thirds of which is paid by the employer and one-third by the employee) in order to be eligible for regularisation and permit renewal, and it gave an extension for the submission of the required documents.’ (Kasimis, 2012)

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