General Secretariat for Citizenship (Ministry of Interior)
4825/2021 on Reform of procedures for deportations and returns of citizens of third countries etc.
4686/2020 on Improvement of immigration legislation etc.
4636/2019 on international protection and other provisions
4375/2016 on Organisation and functioning of the Asylum Service, Appeals Authority, Reception and Identification Service etc.
Code of Immigration and Social Inclusion as ratified by L. 4251/2014
3907/2011 on the establishment of an Asylum Service and a First Reception Service etc.
3386/2005 on Entry, Residence and Social Integration of third country nationals on the Greek territory
Greek Citizenship Code as ratified by Law 3284/2004
Greece has traditionally been a country of emigration and has started attracting immigrants since the 1990s. By the 2020s, the simultaneous presence of economic migrants, asylum seekers, recognized refugees and EU citizens compose a complex migration scene in the country. According to the latest census, the population of Greece has declined by 3.5% since 2011, amounting to 10.432.481 persons in 2021. Against the negative natural increase, immigration in the period 2009-2020 significantly reduced the population loss in Greece, albeit without compensating it fully.
The number of Greek citizens of working age, who usually reside in another EU/EFTA country, saw a constant increase until the peak in 2019. According to UN DESA, over 1 million Greeks lived abroad in 2020. The top 10 hosting countries are Germany (391.502), Australia (119.831), the US (116619), Turkey (81.457), the UK (75.441), Canada (67.536), Albania (29.643), Cyprus (23.581), the Netherlands (19.776) and Sweden (19.399).
Due to the economic crisis that started in 2009, the subsequent austerity measures, rising unemployment and steep salary and welfare cuts, Greece experienced an emigration wave consisting mainly of labour migrants. In the period 2011-2019, the emigration flow exceeded 100.000 persons annually with a peak of 124.194 observed in 2012. One-half of this flow comprised Greek nationals and another half were foreigners, equally affected by the economic crisis. Since 2019, the flow started to decline amounting to 77.837 persons in 2020. Yet, given the deteriorating economic situation in 2022, with the inflation and the unemployment rate in July reaching 12.6% and 12.1% respectively, emigration from the country may again rise. Emigrants are heading to various destinations, however, the vast majority go to Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. In particular, Germany and the UK attracted a sizeable share of the post-2010 emigration.
Over the past 40 years, Greece has been facing a steady increase in the immigrant population. In 2021, an estimated 921.000 non-Greek citizens lived in Greece, representing 8.6% of the total population, compared to 180.000 recorded in 1980. Based on the 2011 census, the majority of foreign nationals were citizens of Albania (52,7%), Bulgaria (8,3%), Romania (5,1%), Pakistan (3,7%), and Georgia (3%). Meanwhile, based on the UN DESA 2019, the largest immigrant groups in Greece came from Albania, Germany, Georgia, Russia and Romania. An analysis of the previous residence reveals that 81.4 % of immigrants in 2020 came to Greece from non-EU countries and only 18.6% came from another EU Member State. Since 2016, the immigration flow has been particularly high approaching 130.000 in 2019. However, in 2020 it declined to 84.221 persons, presumably due to COVID-19.
In December 2021, 965.749 persons, including beneficiaries of international protection (59.216), EU citizens (193.136) and foreigners of Greek descent (19.880) had valid resident permits in Greece. Of them, third-country nationals had 693.517 permits issued for family reunification (252.146), employment (108.037), education (3.672) and other reasons (329.662). Albanians hold the majority of valid (62.8%) and receive most new permits (10.201 in 2021) in Greece. However, the residence permits granted to Chinese citizens almost quintupled from 5.684 in 2016 to 27.684 in 2021, a fact that is mainly attributed to the intention of the Chinese to invest in Greece. Other important origin countries among non-EU residents with valid permits in 2021 included Georgia, Pakistan, Ukraine, Russia, India, Egypt, the Philippines and Bangladesh. Apart from Albanians and Chinese, nationals of Georgia (1.310), Russia (1.095) and Pakistan (1.064) received the majority of 22.905 first-time residence permits in 2021. Among EU holders of residence permits in Greece, in 2021 most came from Bulgaria (35,8%), Romania (28%), Poland (7,1%), Cyprus (5,1%), Germany (5%).
According to the research of the Hellenic Statistical Authority conducted in 2014, job research was the prime reason for immigration for 48% of migrants. However, unemployment among migrants in Greece is widespread and remains one of the highest within the EU. In 2020, 28.6% of persons born outside the EU who were living in Greece were unemployed. In the first quarter of 2022, only 143.000 migrants were officially employed.
In 2015, Greece became one of the main entry points for more than 1 million people who came to Europe seeking safety. The 2016 EU-Turkey Statement, along with the closing of the Balkan Route and the adoption of asylum law in 2019, which expanded detention and for this reason has been criticised by NGOs, UNHCR and the Greek National Commission for Human Rights, dramatically decreased migration for international protection in Greece. While 856.723 persons arrived on the Greek shores in 2015, the number dropped to 9.157 in 2021.
From June 2013 until the end of 2021, Greece registered 350.095 asylum applications, with a maximum of 77.243 recorded in 2019. Most 2021 applicants were nationals of Afghanistan (16%), Pakistan (15%), Syria (14%), Bangladesh (10%), Turkey (7%), Iraq (6%) and Somalia (5%). Overall, from 2016 to 2021, Greece issued 79.065 decisions granting refugee status and 21.342 decisions granting subsidiary protection. In addition, from the beginning of the war in Ukraine until 28 August 2022, an estimated 75.942 Ukrainian citizens have crossed the Greek borders. By 20 September 2022, close to 20.000 Ukrainians received temporary protection in Greece.
Asylum seekers arriving after 20 March 2016 on the Greek islands are subject to a fast-track border procedure, their international protection applications are examined in the islands and geographical restriction is imposed. The latter resulted in overpopulation and degrading living conditions in the five hotspots that have been established in the Greek islands. According to the Greek Ministry of Migration, in December 2021 over 32.000 migrants resided in official structures, which is twice as less as in 2020. Furthermore, in 2021, 11.581 persons left Greece officially (this number includes, inter alia, forced returns, voluntary returns, returns with IOM support, relocations and departures within the application of the Dublin Regulation).
After the 2020 events at the Greek-Turkish border, the Greek government strengthened its efforts of controlling the northern border by extending the border fence and increasing military and police patrols in the area. Allegations of pushbacks at the Greek-Turkish borders as well as on the use of life-threatening methods in the course of operations at sea have been considered credible by international and European institutions and human rights bodies. Since June 2021 Greece started applying the ’safe country of origin concept’ and considers countries that feature in the common list issued by the Council of the EU and those included in the national list during the examination procedure of asylum applicants. Turkey is considered a safe country for nationals of Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia.
Irregular migration is a reoccurring problem in Greece, but the overall flows are on decline. In 2017, over 21.000 third-country nationals had been refused entry at the external Greek borders, while only 3.075 received refusals in 2021. Almost one million third-country nationals had been found illegally present in Greece in 2015, and just 38.015 persons were identified in 2021. Similarly dropped the number of persons ordered to leave, from 104.575 persons in 2015 to 28.815 in 2021. In 2021, 12.020 third-country nationals (including 6.447 asylum seekers) were detained in Pre-removal Detention Facilities. The same year, Greece issued 20.219 detention orders and executed 3.276 forced returns (including deportations and readmissions based on bilateral agreements with adjacent countries). In 2021, 81% of all forced returns concerned Albanian citizens.
In 2014, the Immigration and Social Integration Code introduced reforms concerning residence permits for third-country nationals and organisational arrangements for their social integration. The Greek Immigration Code has been amended several times since its introduction. In 2022, the Code of Reception and international protection replaced the previously criticised 2019 asylum law. In 2021, Greece launched a new National strategy for the social integration of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection, a National Strategy for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors and a National action plan for children's rights, part of which is dedicated to children in refugee and migration context.
Greece has signed bilateral readmission agreements with more than 15 countries. At the beginning of 2022, Greece and Bangladesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding applied mainly to citizens of Bangladesh already residing in Greece permitting them to work seasonally with a specific duration of residence permit and no right of permanent settlement. Greece had similar discussions with Pakistan, however, the two countries are yet to reach an agreement. Greece participates in several Migration Dialogues, including the Prague Process, the Budapest Process, the Rabat Process and the Mediterranean Transit Migration (MTM). The country adopted the Global Compact for Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular migration.