They have been born or finished school in Greece. They hang out at the same places that other Greeks do and they share the same concerns. They talk, they think, they even dream in Greek. However, this group lives in limbo, deprived of Greek citizens' rights.
These are about 200,000 children and young adults, born and raised in Greece from immigrant parents, whom the Greek state refuses to recognize as its own. By not having a Greek citizenship, these children are simply considered immigrants in their own country. Whereas, at the same time, in most E.U. countries, children with immigrant background, immediately acquire the nationality of the country that they have been born in.
Being a child with an immigrant background in Greece, means that you don’t have the right to vote and/or be elected, since you're not considered a Greek citizen, thus you have no political rights. You need a residence permit in order to live legally in the country in which you were born and raised and you have to live and risk, that at any moment, you may be deported to a country which you have only heard from your parents or maybe from school. The things mentioned above, are just some of the problems that an invisible generation is facing in Greece.
In June 2015, Greek government passed a law trying to fill the gap in legislation and give the right of Greek citizenship to children of immigrant background that were born and/or attended school in Greece. However, this law never reached the children expectations for moving to slow due to the famous Greek bureaucracy.
Sofia & Eirini Ukpebor, 20, originates from Nigeria.
"I don’t know another culture beyond the Greek one, but at the same time I can’t say that I feel Greek” Sofia says. Since I get the feeling that they want to kick me out, how should I feel part of this country! If you don’t fit somewhere, you cannot sit and get sandwiched". At the same time Eirini says that “being Greek without papers I consider it to be an offense. I've done the same things like other Greeks, I speak Greek like the others do, I AM GREEK, and no one can tell me otherwise, but at the same time they don't treat me as they should. It is like a mother who grows two children but she loves the one more than the other, just because it looks more like her in the external features!"
Katerina Barboia, 27, originates from Kenya.
Katerina, even though she was born in Greece, is stateless. "Being stateless, someone could simply say that you are a walking ghost" Katerina says. "Deprived of a passport, among others, you can't study in a public university, open a bank account; rent an apartment, having a driving license or travel - even with a domestic flight since you don't have an identity card or a passport."
"I studied tourism and musicology in a private school. I won a scholarship at Harvard University in "Management in travel tourism ". Being a stateless person though, didn’t allow me to travel, attend the school and live the whole experience."
"It's hard to see your friends and classmates leave, make their dreams come true, masters etc. and I have to stay behind."
Kaisar Ali Zahoor, 34, originates from Pakistan.
Kaisar was born and raised in Greece and works as an interpreter in court.
"There were several times in the past, where I had experienced problems with previous jobs. Many employers look down on you compared with other Greek children and they give you a sense of inferiority, although this is not the case everywhere. As I was growing up, I learned to defend myself and facing racism, but while I was a kid, racism left a mark on me."
"Now, the biggest problem will be the labor market and a child with an immigrant background will have to try much more to succeed."
Loretta Abidini, 25, originates from Albania.
Loretta came to Greece at the age of five. She has studied photography at the Technological Educational Institute of Athens and she believes that for a child of an immigrant background is not a problem to go to high school or study in a Greek university, but "wanting to study abroad or do a Master like a lot of Greek students do, is not easy because we don’t have the Greek Citizenship and fees for third-country citizens (citizens of countries outside the EU) is prohibitive" she said.
"The only real problem I had and I still have to face is the Greek bureaucracy. The painful process of renewal the residence permit, the arduous process for someone to gain citizenship after 20 years of legal residence in that country."
"I always loved my country of origin but over the years I learned to love Greece the same and maybe more I guess. For me, Greece is a country that has given me so much and therefore is a country that I love and I feel like mine. I cannot say that I am an Albanian 100% since I lived there for only 5 of the 25 years of my life, nor can I say that I am 100% Greek because my parents and the country where I was born is not Greece; but for sure I can say that I feel Greek-Albanian. If someone told me to paint my portrait on a canvas, I surely would have colors from both countries. This is who I think I am! "
Roxanne Juanta, 20, originates from Philippines.
Roxanne was born in Greece and she is studying Hospitality and tourism management at the Technological Educational Institute of Athens.
"In my school, kids treat me fine and to my experience, the Greeks whom I happen to know, they don’t express racism on me, although now my parents are telling us to be careful. Especially when we’re coming back home late at night, because we might get beat by people that don't want us here in Greece."
"Personally, I think that the main problem that a child with an immigrant background is facing in Greece is the need to renew their residence permit cards every year!"
Mohamed Belhedi, 21, originates from Tunisia.
Mohamed came to Greece at the age of 5 and grew up in Patissia neighborhood, near Attiki Square in Athens. "When I was younger, things were better; it was quiet and beautiful. Back then, people were more hospitable in the area where I live, but through the years they‘ve changed and with the latest events, fear born towards us. During the last five years there are issues with racism, especially with the right-wing extremists, who were doing marches in the center of Athens. At that time, it was too dangerous for immigrants to go out in the streets, especially in the evenings. However, in my daily life I encountered no racism, there were just small things that bothered me but I passed by it."
"Gradually, a major obstacle in your life is developed since the time you understand that you do not have the same rights as your neighbor has. For me, things got harder right after adulthood, especially on the issue of the residence permit."
"The first and the main problem is the issue of citizenship and residence permit. Another problem is racism although this phenomenon isn’t that intense to children with an immigrant background, because they know the Greek language and culture well and they can defend their position in most cases."
"A part of me feels Greek. I grew up in Greece, here is where I have lived my childhood, I am emotionally tied to this place; I have Greek mentality, I am not that different from the other children that I grew up with."
Luigi Juanta, 21, originates from Philippines.
Luigi was born in Greece but for some family reasons (including bureaucratic problems with the Greek authorities) he lived for about 8 years in Philippines with his grandparents.
"Before I go to Philippines I thought I was from Greece. I discover the opposite when I saw that the people there had the same color as me and that there were no white people living in that country. While I was in Philippines I had a really hard time since I haven't seen my mother for six years and I missed her a lot."
"I never saw Philippines as my homeland and I was eager to go back home, Greece."
Yasmin Mohamed, 20, originates from Egypt.
Yasmin was born in Greece and she lives in Athens with her parents and her three siblings.
"We ask for the obvious, not something absurd” she said; “we ask recognition of our right as Greek citizens. It is unacceptable that someone lives in a country for 20 years and yet can’t get citizenship, while in other EU countries they get it in five years."
"I hope that people will stop being suspicious of immigrants. I understand that globalization, the economic crisis and the difficulties that Greece is facing these recent years, leading to fear and insecurity about the future. Poverty and destitution always enhance violent behavior and racism. However; I would like to stress that immigrants are not to blame for the whole situation and it is unfair to transfer all this concern and anger on them. "
Tosin Martins, 24, originates from Nigeria.
Tosin came to Greece at the age of two. Although he has studied physiotherapy, at the moment he is working as a salesman at a clothing store. He believes that it’s difficult for a child of immigrant background to find work in what he/she has studied and he adds: "Yes it's hard... personally, I have encountered difficulties in the past and I still do sometime! One time for example, they called me to arrange an interview for a job and when I went there and they saw me, they began to tell me various excuses! They had been fooled by my accent on the phone, it sounded so Greek. But fortunately, in those jobs I have done until now I had no problem for being a child of immigrant background."
Tosin grew up in Kypseli at Patissia. "A neighborhood with a lot of foreigners and not so many Greeks, I had great time there, beautiful moments, unforgettable, though at times I had and I still have trouble with the police. They stop me and if it happens not to have the papers on me they keep me in cell... it has happened to keep me in cell even when I had a passport on me."
"One complaint I have is that I could have lived experiences as a student abroad as many of my classmates did, but I couldn’t do that because I wasn’t eligible for this due to my residence permit.”
Kostas Bonsu, 31, originates from South Africa and Ghana.
Born in Greece, he works as a bartender.
"My childhood years were carefree, with classmates and friends like brothers to this day. Parks, bicycle, innocent years with color or origin not meaning anything compared to the large wave of racism that exists now in our society. I can say that I have faced more difficulties due to my origin at the age of 25 and thereafter, rather than when I was a kid. "
"I really feel Greek even if I have to renew my papers every now and then. I was born in this country, I‘ve learned the language and the history of this country and not the one of my parents; isn’t logical to feel Greek? "
Tejvir Singh, 15, originates from India.
Tejvir came to Greece at the age of 10 and he lives in Peristeri, Athens.
"I am doing well with everybody in general, although there are people who are angry with those who are not from Greece and want us to leave the country. They make fun of the turban and our religion and that makes me angry sometimes too, but I know they do that because they just don’t know and understand our religion."
Spartak Caushaj 21, originate from Albania.
I came to Greece at the age of 7.
I can say that my school years was perfect, I had no problems with my teachers or my classmates. The problems started when I finished school and I was looking for work. The first question they do to you is "where are you from" and when you tell them, they say "we want a Greek!"
Now I'm in a private school and the only problem I face is the financial.
As for after I finish school, everything is blurred!