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Greece set to give migrants three-year permits to tackle labour shortage

"We don't want invisible people," State Minister Akis Skertsos said
Migrants who were rescued at open sea off Greece along with other migrants, after their boat capsized, are seen inside a warehouse, used as shelter, at the port of Kalamata, Greece, June 15, 2023. Photo via Reuters
Migrants who were rescued at open sea off Greece along with other migrants, after their boat capsized, are seen inside a warehouse, used as shelter, at the port of Kalamata, Greece, June 15, 2023. Photo via Reuters

Greek lawmakers prepared to vote late on Monday on a bill allowing migrants to obtain a three-year residency and work permit, a step to tackle labour shortages in key sectors of an economy recovering from a debt crisis.

Greece has been a gateway to the European Union for thousands of migrants and asylum seekers from the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe. Many of them have ended up working illegally, in sectors such as construction, farming and tourism.

After emerging from three international bailouts in 2018, Greece, like other European peers, was also hit by an exodus of workers from the labour force during the 2020-21 COVID pandemic, many of whom have never returned.

The conservative government, which was re-elected in June and has toughened Greece’s policy to curb migration by hiring more border guards and increasing patrols, estimates that roughly 300,000 undocumented migrants now live in the country.

“We don’t want invisible people,” State Minister Akis Skertsos told ANT1 television on Monday, adding that the permit would help attract workers for jobs that unemployed Greeks have appeared unwilling to do and safeguard public order.

According to the conservative government’s bill, migrants and asylum-seekers who have been living in the country for at least three years, have no criminal record and have been offered a job, can apply by December 2024 for the new residency permit.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis party controls 158 seats in the 300-seat parliament and therefore the bill, which also creates the post of national coordinator on migrant returns, was expected to be approved on Monday evening.

An estimated 30,000 people – many of them from Albania, Georgia, Pakistan and Philippines – are likely to apply for the new type of permit, migration ministry officials have said.

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