Friday, May 12, 2006


Another blow to those trying to make a living for themselves here in Greece. Immigrants who have licences to sell their goods at outdoor venues will no longer be able to renew them. The new legislation will only allow EU and Greek citizens to have these licences. The immigrants who are affected by this law are legal, they pay taxes and national insurance. In the Athens News, two of the street vendors speak out: "There are only two application requirements that we cannot fulfil - a Greek identity card and proof that we have served in the Greek military," says Hammed Adekola. "I have been legal selling my goods [handbags and electrical items] at open-air markets in Athens since 1998. I do not understand why the government now wants to ban us from the markets. If the law is not changed, it will be bad for me and for my family." Elvis Ekhaguosa, vice-president of a local Nigerian community organisation,  says he has had a licence to sell his wares at the market since 1996, accuses the government of discriminating against immigrants. "I am urging the government to reconsider," he says. "We have children and families and are upright citizens. We don't understand why we should be deprived of the right to work... I have been living in Greece for 18 years with proof. I should not be barred from the markets because I do not have citizenship." They are joined in their protest by Athens city council member Yvette Jarvis, who said, "What this new law means is that they will no longer be allowed to continue working, which means they will not be able to fulfil their social insurance requirement," explains Jarvis. "This means that when the time comes for them to renew their residence permit, they will be deemed illegal because they will not meet the mandatory social insurance requirement. And also the [immigration] law does not allow immigrants to change the type of employment easily... so there are lots of conflicting issues." The government stance is that the municipalities had no legal right to issue the permits in the first place but they are looking into it. That's comforting isn't it? If these permits were not supposed to be handed out to non-EU immigrants, why not look into changing the law in favour of doing so. After all, there is an anti-discrimination clause in the Greek constitution. It seems we take one step forward and two steps back when it comes to minority rights. What on earth do they expect immigrants to do now they seem to be losing another means of making a living? It seems to me that this is just another step in making life so difficult for them in Europe that they will be forced to leave. I would like to add my thanks and support to Kathy Tzilivakis at the Athens News for making a determined and sustained effort to keep minority rights in the spotlight. Full article below.


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