Stateless, forgotten and ignored

Monica Athina Bello was born in Greece of Nigerian parents. However in the eyes of the Greek state she is considered an ‘illegal alien’ rather than a citizen.

While you have enjoyed a happy and joyful Easter, we “second generation immigrants” in Greece are enjoying a less happy time.

We have no birth certificates so we are not allowed to consider ourselves Greek, and still we cannot claim anything from our parents countries because we were not born there either.
– Monica Athina Bello –

A Parliamentary discussion on the status of immigrant to Greece last year has left us unhappy and uncertain.

Let’s begin with the simple point that there are different categories of immigrants in the world. For example, there are political refugees, economic migrants, business migrants as well as illegal aliens.

However the Greek government has one way of dealing with people like me who were born in Greece to non-Greek parents: it treats us as illegal aliens.

This hit home on December 11 2008; the day after the International Day of Human Rights. On that day the Greek parliament denied us the right to identity and country.

While three of the four major opposition parties – PASOK, SYRIZA and KKE – supported the granting of Greek citizenship to those born  in Greece or brought to Greece at a very young age, the Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs, Athanasios Nakou opposed the idea.

Nakou said that “no one ever asked for the Greek citizenship and besides immigrants can be granted a long term residents’ permit with which they can work and get insured, so why should citizenship be an issue?”

My rhetorical response is simple: I don’t know, maybe because we were actually born here?

“Citizenship implies much more. It means I want to be a Greek,’ Nakou said. “I may work and stay in another country, make a fortune and lead a good life, but that doesn’t mean I want to change my nationality.”

Again, my rhetorical response is simple: If a person is born, raised within the Greek culture, educated in Greece and has known no other country, is he anything but Greek?

Nakou went on to say how the government has been generous in creating a migration policy designed to decrease the number of illegal immigrants in Greece.

PASOK MP, Anna Diamandopoulou, hit back at Nakou by saying that his statement has nothing to do with the almost 200,000 people who were born in Greece but have not been given the right to be called Greek.

Diamandopulou challenged Nakou to explain the basis of the government’s decision.

What is most hurtful is the so called ‘research’ which the far right wing LAOS claim to have undertaken on immigrants in Greece. LAOS claims that all immigrants in Greece are “illegal immigrants” with some who have subsequently been granted legal status.

LAOS MP, Mr Polatidis, made two claims.

He claimed that all second generation immigrants are potential Turkish allies if war were to break out and that they could grow up to be Islamist terrorists.

Can you imagine my horror? A statement such as this being made in a country which purports to be the ‘cradle of democracy?’

LAOS has made its position on the subject clear. The children of immigrants are a danger to the nation. Greece only needs about 300,000 immigrants and the rest should be deported.

This is what the Greek parliament decided to base its decision on!

The voices of the 138 parliament members who supported the granting of Greek citizenship to those born  in Greece or brought to Greece at a very young age were ignored by the Greek government while it agreed to heed the voices of the 10 parliamentary members of LAOS who were for the deprivation of basic human rights.

The Deputy Parliamentary speaker, Mr. Sourlas, went further, saying that immigrants should not interfere in Greek internal matters since they are just guests in the country.
Guests, in the place we were born!

Mr Nakou set boundaries in relation to the granting of Greek citizenship. The ability of Greece to respect human rights and embrace immigrants who want to become citizens depends on ability of the Greek nation to embrace change whilst sustaining its social cohesion and social identity.

In other words if you do not have Greek blood flowing in your veins you cannot be a Greek.

What the Greek government agreed to was that the children of immigrants from third world countries who were born and raised in Greece and whose parents have been legally residing in Greece, are eligible for a long term residence permit upon turning 18 years old. Once the long term residence permit expires they can apply for citizenship.

So where does that leave the about 50,000 of us who are now in our 30s and our parents may not reside in Greece anymore or even worse they may have passed away?

Can you imagine our disappointment? Once more we are brushed to the sidelines like pests in the only home we’ve ever known.

We have no birth certificates so we are not allowed to consider ourselves Greek, and still we cannot claim anything from our parents’ countries because we were not born there either.

We are ghosts who are still waiting for the Greek government to finally see us and treat us as Greeks.

Please give us a hand to extend this change to Greece as well.

We seek your assistance because as descendants of immigrants you have a better understanding of our situation and what we feel. Help us bring this injustice to an end.

Monica Athina Bello  – President

African Students Association of Achaias (ASAA)