Greece Debates Bill Granting 100,000 Citizenships

AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

Greece is currently considering a measure that would grant citizenship to second-generation immigrants, defined as children born in Greece to parents who have lived there legally for at least five years, with an added requirement that applicants must be properly enrolled in a primary school.

Critics of the measure fear that it will, as Giorgos Georgantas of the New Democracy party put it, “give the wrong message” and send Greece “down a dangerous road.”

A report at Ekathimerini quotes Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy Tasia Christodoulopoulou saying the measure would affect less than 100,000 people and would send “a message of social inclusion and acceptance.”

100,000 people is a sizable cohort in a comparatively small nation like Greece. In fact, supporters of the bill have portrayed this number as alarmingly large in the past, when warning that without second-generation citizenship provisions, Greece risked creating a population of what Dimitris Christopoulos of the Hellenic League described as “angry adults.” That might be a significantly low estimate, too, as other sources have said there might be up to 200,000 people born to immigrant parents living in Greece.

Greece is not the first name that springs to mind when thinking of countries with the robust economic health to accept a large number of new citizens. Critics fear that the new citizenship bill will provide an incentive for more people to migrate to Greece, and there are a lot of people already on the way, as the Greeks have been hit by the immense wave of refugees pouring out of Libya.

There is some political strain within the governing left-wing coalition over the new citizenship bill, with the Independent Greeks objecting to legislation favored by ruling party Syriza and its partners. The government has sought to reassure wavering politicians that the bill, which was approved by a parliamentary draft committee on Wednesday, can still be amended to achieve what immigration policy minister Christodoulopoulou called “the greatest possible consensus.”