Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has pushed a law enabling illegal immigrants to stay and work in Greece EPA-EFE/BELTES ALEXANDROS


Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis in surprise U-turn on illegal migration


The Greek New Democracy (ND) Government has passed legislation enabling previously illegal immigrants to work in Greece.

In what many see as a surprise move, the new law was introduced as an amendment to existing legislative framework, thus avoiding public consultation.

Greece is facing what migration and asylum minister Dimitris Kairidis said were not only labour shortages but also disintegrating social cohesion.

“This is a small step in meeting the acute needs of the tight labour market and a big step in enhancing public safety,” he told the UK’s Guardian newspaper on December 19. “Greece is faced with an unprecedented problem of labour shortages … because of the high growth, the big fall in unemployment and the declining number of Albanian [workers].” The decision to enact the law under the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis seems to be in contrast to the party’s stated commitments.

ND secured a second term in July in a landslide victory on a promise to be tough on illegal immigration, an issue that has become top of the public agenda in Greece.

Mitsotakis first came to power in 2019 promising to expel all illegal immigrants. Since then, the number shipped abroad is less than his leftist SYRIZA predecessors achieved.

Greece has had to deal with an exodus of workers prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Labour scarcity has been reported as particularly problematic in the agriculture, tourism and construction sectors.

Regarding the new law, Government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis made it clear that ND MPs, apart from former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, would be kicked out of the party if they didn’t vote for the legislation.

That was despite the fact that Samaras had criticised the new law saying it was a step “in the wrong direction” and would act as a “beacon which will attract more illegal immigrants”.

Samaras did vote against the new legislation while another six ND MPs, who had publicly voiced strong concerns, ended up voting in favour.

It seems the “progressive” element in the Greek Parliament supported Mitsotakis’s decision. SYRIZA leftists and PASOK Socialists, together with the Greek Communist Party, the New Left and Course of Freedom all voted for the new law.

In another unannounced move, the Prime Minister recently pledged to grant marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples.