- Title: GREECE: Immigrants demonstrate against racism and demand rights
- Date: 27th January 2010
- Summary: ATHENS, GREECE (JANUARY 26, 2010) (REUTERS) IMMIGRANTS GATHERED FOR DEMONSTRATION, HOLDING PLACARDS READING (Greek) 'STOP RACIST ATTACKS' VARIOUS AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS PARTICIPATING IN THE DEMONSTRATION
- Embargoed: 11th February 2010 12:00
- Location: Greece
- Country: Greece
- Reuters ID: LVA3GFB5Z730PKZMEFA6GEVDA2JX
- Story Text: Human rights groups and immigrants demonstrate against racism and call attention to their problems, as the government carves out new measures to improve the lives of immigrants.
Immigrants and about 600 human rights activists marched in Athens on Tuesday (January 26) to demonstrate against racism and call attention to the problems immigrants face.
The newly elected Greek government has made immigration issues a priority and proposed new measures for improving conditions, including granting citizenship to children of immigrants born in Greece.
Other measures include creating an independent committee to solely handle and speed up asylum applications.
The UNHCR has welcomed the proposals, which had previously criticized the country for its treatment of migrants and its low record of accepted asylum applications.
The government plans to grant children born in Greece to legal immigrants citizenship and eligibility to vote. Until now an immigrant has to wait until the age of 18 just to apply for citizenship, and has to be living in Greece legally for ten years.
Human rights groups have applauded the move, saying a quarter of a million people are eligible, but say it does not go far enough, as only children of legal immigrants can apply.
Legal papers are difficult to obtain, held back by delays and bureaucracy, leaving hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in Greece illegally. The protesters said they want all immigrant's children to be given citizenship and the legalization process to be made easier.
"The government's measures don't go far enough to solve the problem, we are opposed to them - not because as the extreme right wingers say they should not be Greek - but because we think exactly the opposite, that all of the immigrant children should be granted citizenship unconditionally," said Antonis Draganigos, member of a leftist human rights group that organised the rally.
Two political parties, the main opposition conservative party and the right wing nationalist party, have spoken out against granting Greek citizenship to immigrants.
"Getting citizenship and legal papers is really difficult, it's a big problem. I have been here since 1983 and I still don't have papers, it's really hard for me," said Mahmed Hamada from Egypt, a father of two teenage girls born in Greece. Hamada said the government's measures were a good step.
The protesters also wanted to call attention to the harassment of immigrants.
Immigrants in Athens have often been attacked by extreme right groups, are often chased by police, and have also faced a backlash from some locals who view them as responsible for rising crime.
Greece says it is struggling to accommodate the tens of the thousands of illegal immigrants that cross its land and sea borders every year.
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