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Immigrants vote in 2010 Municipal Elections

The much awaited immigrants’ participation in municipal elections is a fact, following a new legislative amendment passed by the government.
According to an interior ministry circular, all eligible immigrants can register untilAugust 31 2010– the previous deadline was June 30 – at their local municipality’s election office should they want to vote in the upcoming ballot on November 14. Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis stressed that “the participation of legally residing, long-term residents is a historic event.” 
About the procedure and the eligibility criteria: Ministry of the Interior (in Greek)
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

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Immigration Policy:Interview of Giorgos Tsarbopoulos

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) In an interview with a Greek daily (Ta Nea), Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, head of the Greek branch of United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) comments on the government’s decision to overhaul Greece’s migration policy.
Tsarbopoulos admits that the draft law on granting citizenship to immigrants is a positive initiative but needs to be supplemented.
He says that naturalisation should be the first step within a broader social integration policy. Similarly, asylum policy needs to be enhanced by a well organised hospitality and welfare safety net.
What is important about the new asylum policy is that it disassociates itself from the police and that a new independent body is created to address the issue.
UNHCR recognises that within the European Union, the Dublin II Regulation has placed a disproportionate burden on Greece and advises other EU countries not to send back asylum seekers when their reception is deemed precarious. 
Greek News Agenda: UN Refugees High Commissioner in Athens & A Joint Letter on Immigration; UNHCR: 2010 Regional Operations Profile – Greece

French Minister Visits Samos

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) During his visit to the Aegean island of Samos, on Friday Sept 18th, French Immigration Minister Eric Besson, accompanied by Greek Caretaker Interior Minister Spyros Flogaitis, visited the Italian vessel of Frontex and the immigrants’ reception centre, pointed out that Greece is confirming its good name regarding hospitality issues.  Besson was in Samos for a briefing on the situation prevailing in this eastern part of Europe, in light of the meeting today, among European Union Interior Ministers on justice and domestic issues, to discuss the increasing illegal entry of foreigners from the Turkish coast.

FRONTEX Guards the EU Borders

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Merchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy Minister Anastasis Papaligouras recently signed a declaration for the supply of equipment with the European agency  Frontex – an EU body created to coordinate the operational cooperation between member-states in the field of border security – to curb illegal immigration into Europe. The effective handling of illegal migration is a particular concern to the EU and, of course, to Greece, whose national borders are also Schengen area borders in their entirety and EU external limits for the most part. The need for action becomes more urging since, lately, increased illegal migrant flows have been observed at the country’s eastern – land and maritime – borders. Greece participates actively in shaping a common European Surveillance System (EUROSUR) for all external land and maritime borders, in building the European Patrol Network, as well as in promoting the creation of a European Coast Guard, which was a Greek initiative. Frontex executive director Ikka Laitinen said that Greece was doing what it should but was faced with an exceptionally difficult task that had to be carried out in a difficult area and a difficult environment. Athens News Agency: Greece signs deal with Frontex; Hellenic Migration Policy Institute: www.imepo.gr & Statistical Data on Immigrants in Greece; Migrants in Greece: www.migrantsingreece.org; European Commission: Towards a Common Immigration Policy & A maritime Policy for the EU 

Computer Seminars for Immigrants in Athens

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   An “Unlimited Potential” centre, which began operating in October in Athens, offers free certified computer literacy seminar series for up to 150 immigrants. The centre was set up by the City of Athens Centre for Employment and Entrepreneurship and Microsoft Hellas.  The programme aims to improve immigrants’ access to the job market. The Hellenic Professional Informatics Society has taken on the organisation of the programme, while Hellas ECDL is offering accreditation exams for free. The seminars have already begun in Igoumenitsa, Epirus and are being planned for other cities, including Thessaloniki and Patras.  Athens Plus: Free computer science seminars for immigrants (p. 17)  Microsoft Unlimited Potential: Helping Create a Positive Future for Migrants in Greece  &  Press Release – Gains Without Frontiers – Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential in Central and Eastern Europe (10.11.2008)  

Immigrants in Greece

Kathimerini daily reports on how immigrants in Greece enjoy higher living standards, while taking various professional opportunities and contributing to the economy (“From unskilled workers, many immigrants have risen to become their own boss in a foreign land).