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The young men from Asante: immigration is not hereditary, we are just the new generation

19 December 2010 / 10:12:49  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Is it possible to be born in one country, to live in it since you can remember, and that country to refuse to give you documents? The answer is yes. This is what the children of the first Africans arrived in Greece 30 years ago told today on the International Day of the immigrant.

Asante or thanks in Swahili is the name of the organization they founded two years ago with the primary  purpose of informing the public, especially the young people on issues related to the people and culture of Africa, the support for young people with immigrant origin and strengthening the solidarity at local and national level.

Today was held the first big event of Asante. The organization, whose members are Africans, Greeks and young people of mixed origin organized an open discussion about the procedure for issuing residence permits and the new Code for Greek citizenship. It was held under the auspices of the Ministries of Interior and Labor in the building of one of the departments and with the participation of representatives from all department-links in the long bureaucratic chain of issuing different types of documents for immigrants.

The experience of the 26-year-old Rania Kushasi is indicative of the ups and downs, which the "second generation" immigrants in Greece are facing.

When did your parents arrive in Greece and where were you born?

My parents had arrived from Ghana with the first wave of African immigrants. At one point they departed from here, and I was born in Lebanon but returned when I was 2 years old. I grew up here, I went to school, then to the university where I graduated as a social worker. When I was 18 my problems related with the documents that I had to submit in order to issue me a certificate of temporary residence started. Until then I was registered in the authorization of my mother. At the beginning I asked for a student permit but it was refused because I had no visa for entering into the country for educational purposes. This was completely illogical, since I lived in Greece, since I was little. The second time I submitted an application I filled it with the rationale “for an independent work”. The procedure for it took more than a year, and went through the court, but eventually I got the permit. Now I gave the documents for naturalization, but there are obstacles as well because in the meantime the permit which is one of the main prerequisites has expired. I constantly confront with obstacles.

Now what document do you have?

I have certificate showing that I have filed an application for renewal of residence permit. But it does not have the same power and the naturalization process is delayed. A while ago, I even wanted to get a permit to exercise my profession of a social worker. In order to get it I had to submit a "certificate of reciprocity”, which is required for foreigners. This document, which is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says that the cycle of the education and the profession should apply the same in the country of origin. In Ghana, there is no profession with exactly the same name and therefore I had to look in which other African country it can be found. The whole procedure is done by the ministry, but all this has no logic, since I have not graduated abroad but here.

Rania has submitted documents for naturalization under the new law for the acquisition of Greek citizenship by birth or through completion of compulsory education from six years in a Greek school, which was passed in March this year. The authorities believe that it will help for the validation of thousands of immigrants and their born and raised in Greece children. One of them is the 19-year-old Jackie Abulimen that studies marketing at the University of Athens. Here is what she told GRReporter:

"My parents are from Nigeria and Kenya and they have come here to study, but during all these years they have never exercised their jobs. I know they had a lot of problems with some expressions of racism and bureaucracy on their documents.

Me and my brothers were born here. We too have had problems of social issues such as racism and alienation, but in a very few cases. When I was younger I could not understand the nature of the difficulties related to personal documents. However, when I went in the secondary school and started thinking what I want to do in my life I realized the difficulties we are facing. I'm lucky to have a residence permit. I submitted the application for naturalization and now I am expecting the results.

The first Africans came to Greece in 70s. The second major wave arrived before 10-15 years. Asante presented an informal poll conducted among members of the African community, for today's discussion. The results showed that the majority of the Africans who live in the country have no documents, some have a permit for temporary residence, and others have certificates for „documents submitted for political shelter”. They have learned about the new law from the media and NGOs, and not from any official body. Many of them probably will not submit documents for three reasons: bureaucracy, expensive fees, lengthy procedures and fear of rejection. Very few immigrants from Africa have enrolled in the lists of the voters for the local elections that took place last month. Interestingly, one of the reasons invoked is the lack of trust in the political system, something that the entire Greek society is suffering from.

Tags: Society Documents Imigrants Africa Young Men Organization
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