Greece is planning a major regularization program for migrants to cope with labor crunch

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s minister for migration said Tuesday that the government is planning a major regularization program for migrants to meet pressing demands in the labor market despite a recent increase in illegal arrivals.

Dimitris Kairidis told state-run radio that the program would target an estimated 300,000 migrants who are undocumented or whose residence permits have expired to help address acute labor shortages in agriculture, construction and tourism.

Kairidis said the plan — similar to a 2020 reform in Italy — would be on the agenda of a national security meeting later Tuesday. The meeting, chaired by center-right Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and attended by Cabinet members and military leaders, also discussed Greece's military procurements program, the government said.

“We do not want to create new incentives for further illegal (migrant) flows because that is the danger,” the minister said. “On the other hand, we want to go from black to white … from undeclared to declared labor to boost public revenue with employment taxes and contributions and help address dramatic (labor) shortages in certain sectors.”

Kairidis said the shortages were slowing landmark public works projects, including construction of a subway system in Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, and a new airport on the island of Crete.

The plans were announced amid a recent surge in migrant arrivals from Turkey. At least 100 people were rescued off Greece's eastern islands on Tuesday.

Authorities said 45 migrants – 14 men, nine women, 14 boys and eight girls – were found by the coast guard on a dinghy stranded near Samos, with no others believed to be missing.

Another 54 migrants were picked up from another flimsy boat off Lesbos, the coast guard said, while two people were rescued off Kos, further south.

Greece is seeking emergency financial assistance from the European Union to cope with the recent rise in arrivals.


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