11 October, 2005
Addressing the 2nd international conference on immigration organized by the Institute of Immigration Policy on Monday, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos stressed that immigrants were actually a great advantage in the present age and counterbalanced other phenomena.
Pavlopoulos said that Europe had been caught off-guard and unprepared by the sudden rise in immigration some years ago, so that it was seen as a problem rather than a natural phenomenon.
"Immigration is not a problem, it is a bonus through which societies are enriched by the contributions of people. It is a means of fertilizing cultures," he added.
Outlining government policies and priorities for immigrants, meanwhile, he stressed the need to respect the rights and identity of immigrants and to incorporate them in society.
He said this process should begin through volunteerism and the integration of immigrants into Greek society on the best of terms, letting them know that they can contribute and can become Greeks if they so wish.
The conference was also addressed by Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, who stressed that the Church was both willing and able to contribute to the integration of immigrants into Greek society, regardless of their national or religious origins.
According to other speakers at the conference, there is currently one immigrant for every 35 people on the planet. In Greece, about 13 per cent of the workforce is made up of immigrants and one in six school students is also an immigrant.
Source: Athens News Agency