της Ξένιας Κουτσογιάννη (για το UDI - Norwegian Directorate of Immigration)
All individuals should have the right of equal participation in the society in which they live. This should be defined by the right to be a citizen of the country in which they were born or have lived their entire lives, regardless of where they parents are coming from. Approximately 200,000 children are born and raised in Greece from immigrant parents. These “invisible children” are practically without homeland.

On one hand, Greek state considers them as immigrants and denies citizenship. On the other hand, Greek society equating them with first generation immigrants, denying the sense of belonging to, stigmatizing and marginalizing them. Stereotypes regarding the origin, the occupation, the knowledge of the language, legitimate documentation or not, are the obstacles they face every day.  In other words they should constantly confront the fact that they are considered as “different”, even if they themselves do not feel that way. In order to encourage these children to become full citizens, something drastic and substantial is needed. They need to become visible.

It is true that social environment brings sometimes immigrant’s children face to face with social behavior patterns in serious conflict with the values of their countries of origin. Those cultural challenges sometimes disrupt and others strengthen their social inclusion.  In addition, economic crisis, unemployment, insufficient social and health support and lack of consistent integration policies, allow the widespread of nihilistic behaviors, violence and criminality, as well as racism and xenophobia.

Only with serious commitment and coordinated team effort, steps forwards can be made.  If debate about immigrants, immigration and social integration continues, excluding immigrants from the dialog, the available options and solutions can’t be sustainable.

In order to achieve social integration, Greek society must urgently upgrade immigrants from “second class” citizens, into “active citizens”. Active citizens, as we civil society organizations visualize, have five key features: they are responsible, they are well informed, they know their rights and their obligations, they express their opinion and actively participate in community. By the term “community” we mean society as a whole without exclusions.

Immigrants’ children, with very few exceptions, will permanently remain, work and create their own families in Greece. They must become visible. They must be listened. Their perceptions must be recorded and their proposals should be taken under serious consideration in order to contribute to decision-making on issues related to social integration. If we want to promote social equality, we have to reinforce the sense of belonging and dynamically contribute to upgrade them into equal and active citizens.