Will SYRIZA’s electoral gains boost Greece’s MIPEX score?

Portrait of a Family Spaceshoe Flickr Creative CommonsBy Marina Nikolova, Junior Research Fellow at Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) with the support of Thomas Huddleston, Programme Director, MPG

The legal reforms promised by SYRIZA could substantially improve the conditions for integration in Greece, as measured by its MIPEX score, and put Greece alongside Portugal, Spain and Italy as relatively welcoming new countries of immigration. Greece’s MIPEX score could increase by over 15 points if these promises are well-implemented to address the major areas of weakness in Greece’s integration policies.

Within SYRIZA’s new Cabinet, Mrs. Tasia Christodoulopoulou was appointed as Alternate Minister of Migration Policy under the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reconstruction, headed by the Minister Mr. Nikolaos Voutsis.

SYRIZA’s pre-election programme sees migration policy as part of its social policies and wants a more humane and rational migration policy respecting international treaties. On the other hand, the party believes that such a national policy also requires a major reform of EU migration policy, with a proportionate and mutually acceptable allocation of refugees and migrants to all EU Member States.

SYRIZA’s starting point for integration

The starting point will be a continuous regular process of registration and regularisation of migrants’ legal status and social protection, as part of its broader political priorities to combat informal uninsured work, tax evasion and mechanisms of social marginalisation. Greece is supposed to regain a sense of security through greater stabilisation, solidarity and integration of all people living in Greek society.

As detention is seen as an ineffective and relatively expensive policy, detention centres will be closed and replaced by first reception centres for registration, identification and attention to basic health and social needs. The party pledges to stop push-backs at the borders and explicitly prohibit administrative detention and expulsion of vulnerable groups (e.g. according to age, disability, health situation, etc.). Other asylum reform promises include the decriminalisation of irregular entry and stay, greater capacity/training for and effective access to Regional Asylum Offices and a reallocation of funds to free interpretation services, free legal representation and more decent reception facilities, especially for vulnerable groups.

What proposals would improve Greece’s MIPEX score?

Based on the provisional 2014 data for Greece, a prospective impact assessment by MPG suggests that the legal reforms promised by SYRIZA could substantially improve the conditions for integration in Greece, as measured by its MIPEX score, and put Greece alongside Portugal, Spain and Italy as relatively welcoming new countries of immigration. Greece’s MIPEX score could increase by over 15 points if these policy promises are well-implemented in the ways outlined below:

EU Law: Reaching for the European average

The anti-racism law should be stricter to combat racist violence and end discriminatory practices denying the right to access health, education and social protection for migrants, especially the undocumented. . MIPEX finds Greece’s anti-discrimination laws  only halfway favourable and  slightly weaker than those in most EU countries. Based on the MIPEX data for Greece, a favourable legal framework would require:

  • Explicit prohibitions against nationality/citizenship discrimination in all areas of life (as in most EU countries)
  • Explicit prohibitions against racial profiling by the police (see France, UK, and, most recently, Germany)
  • Alternative dispute mechanisms and greater powers for the Ombudsman (as in most EU countries)
  • Greater legal role for NGOs to intervene on behalf of victims e.g. class actions (see a variety of EU countries)

A more stable legal work and residence permit system would reduce the irregularity and exploitation of migrant workers. SYRIZA proposes more flexible requirements, more equitable and cost-based fees/stamps, less burdensome documentation and greater regional administrative capacity for acquisition and renewal of employment, self-employment, family reunification and long-term residence. For example:

According to this quick MIPEX prospective impact assessment, a more flexible work permit system would provide slightly favourable labour market access for migrants with the right to work in Greece. These more equitable conditions for families would significantly improve the family reunification procedure, leading to an overall score on this policy similar to the EU average. Access to long-term residence would go from an area of weakness in Greece’s integration policy to a major area of strength.

+ 10 points through Ragousi law alone

The new minister’s promise to implement the Ragousi’s law (L. 3838/2010) would immediately boost Greece’s MIPEX score by 10 points, as the law did after its passage in 2010 (see MIPEX profile). As MIPEX demonstrates, these provisions on naturalisation, ius soli and voting rights are rather common across Europe, and increasingly in new countries of immigration like Greece. Last year Greece became the first country of immigration in recent history to take away the right to vote from immigrants. The repeal of the birthright citizenship provisions also left a large number of children living without equal rights, even without papers, depending on the legal status of their parents.

Greater social support

Greece’s nearly non-existent targeted support for labour market integration could significantly improve with the establishment of ‘one-stop services’ providing information and referrals on workers’ rights, the public employment service, the recognition of foreign qualifications and skills (for the European-recognised best practice, see CNAI in Portugal).

Greece’s rather unique institution of intercultural schools will also be strengthened under the SYRIZA party platform. MIPEX’s education policy data suggests that this model would need substantial improvements to not only target the specific needs of migrant pupils, but also open new opportunities and an intercultural education to all children in Greece:

  • Orientation and interpretation offered to new migrant parents enrolling their children (see France, Luxembourg, Portugal and Nordics)
  • Continuous support to attain academic fluency in Greek, starting in pre-school (see multicultural kindergartens in Austria, Germany and Nordics)
  • Better data and corresponding support for high-concentration immigrant schools
  • Separate Citizenship subject and more diverse Foreign Language offer for all Greek pupils (e.g. Belgium, Sweden, UK, traditional countries of immigration)

Inspiration may be drawn from the recommendations of the SIRIUS Network, the EU’s recent policy network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background.