May 15, 2008

Say NO to racism from birth!

Bloggers UniteOn this day of Bloggers Unite for Human Rights I choose to blog about something close to home, something that shames me as a citizen of Greece. My country refuses to give birth certificates to babies born here to immigrant families! Greece denies these second-generation immigrant children the right to be recorded as existing beings - which is a unique international exclusion - since anyone born in a given nation can obtain nationality by right of birth in that country.

The consequences of this refusal are many and serious. Without a birth certificate a child is subsequently denied enrollment in Greek municipal registries (dimotologia) which ensures him/her status of existence! Registering and attending Greek public schools is a bureaucratic chaos if the principal is unsympathetic and strict about complying with legal formalities that require a birth certificate (13% of the student body in public Greek schools is semi-illegal). The child will not be able to apply for social (health) insurance, passport or work permits growing up because plainly he/she doesn't exist for the Greek government and state.
foto by Nikianna Siannou
What's even worse that once a child becomes of legal age, 18 years old, he/she may be deported since they can't produce any citizenship or legal papers to prove they aren't illegal immigrants. But here lies the irony and the most maddening aspect of this tragedy... deported to WHERE?

These children are born here, in Greece; they go to school here, play, live and become adults here. They learn the language, the way of life. Their families are law-abiding citizens and contribute to the Greek economy with work and taxes. These children call Greece "home". Where will their homeland -Greece- deport them to? To the country their parents left, fled, were chased from? THAT country –understandably- has no recognition of their existence since they were born in Greece. Where will they go?

We are talking about approximately 200,000 children and young people who have not experienced another country except Greece and are baptized "immigrants" by the Greek state. Their future in Greece means that they will either have to enter the work force at a very young age in order to get social insurance stamps (ensima) to avoid deportation, consequently terminating their studies and not being able to go on to university, get a better education, better work prospects, a better life. They are forced to maintain a semi-illegal status quo like many immigrants living in Greece.

These second generation immigrants are marginalized, they live in limbo, in a grey zone - neither here nor there. The Greek Ministry of Interior is blatantly violating the human right to citizenship as stated by article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Furthermore, Hellenic officials' regard of these children as non-existing or second-rate citizens reinforces Greek society's racist views of those seeking refuge or immigrating to our country for a better life, fleeing from wars, poverty, violence and hunger. Thus the circle of hate will never stop. Greeks might stop disdaining foreigners and come to terms with the changing world, a multicultural one, if our government firstly secures equality amongst ALL habitants of this country.

These children have the right to be recorded as Greek citizens. Refusing innocent children the right to existence is unacceptable for a member-state of the European Union and for a "civilized" country that proudly boasts about its forefathers lighting the torch of civilization and giving democracy to the world.

Sign the petition asking the Greek government to grant birth certificates to these children here

For more information in Greek:
Campaign: Say NO to racism from birth!