A new law passed in Greece changes the regulations on residence permits for non-EU migrants. But rights groups say it fails to address the needs of unaccompanied children.
Greece on Wednesday approved a law extending the duration of residence permits for migrant children born and raised in the country. Second-generation migrants born in Greece are now entitled to receive 10-year residency permits, up from a maximum of five years previously.
The new law changes the rules of entry for citizens of third countries to cover domestic labor shortages, such as seasonal workers. Certain categories of workers already living in Greece will also be allowed to change their location of residence.
After the bill was passed, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi told parliament that the legislation contained "effective procedures on dealing with challenges of migration, taking into account the needs of the Greek economy and society, and deterring illegal migration," the news site ekathimerini.com reported.
The new legislation will apply from January 2024, Mitarachi said.
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Unaccompanied minors still at risk
The new Migration Code also includes a ten-year residence permit for unaccompanied minors who become adults, based on two conditions: They must complete at least three years of Greek schooling by the age of 23, and be accepted in vocational training/apprenticeship or university-level schools or institutions.
Previously, migrants from non-EU countries had to complete six years of schooling in Greece by the age of 23 in order to receive the 'M2' residence permit. They also had to have been living legally in Greece for ten years, at least five of which had to be with a Greek family, among other conditions.
The code has, however, been criticized by rights groups such as the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), which says unaccompanied migrant minors may be unable to meet the schooling criteria. Earlier this month, GCR and 15 other humanitarian and refugee organizations expressed serious concerns over the bill and called for amendments to address what they said were gaps in legal status faced by unaccompanied children in Greece.
"Absolutely no provision is included in the proposed bill for unaccompanied children whose request for international protection is rejected while they are minors," a statement by the groups said. They also complained that there had not been enough public consultation on the Migration Code.
The migration ministry says there are nearly 750,000 foreign nationals legally living in Greece. According to official data, Greece issued over 150,000 residence permits in 2022.