Former Greek PM Antonis Samaras, who held office from 2012 to 2015, on Friday expressed his vociferous objection against an amendment proposing a reduction of the current five-year period to three years before a third country national who resides illegally in the country can receive legal residency status.

In the statement, the ex-premier and New Democracy (ND) party leader called on the government to withdraw the amendment and reconsider the entire issue, labelling the draft legislation regarding “illegal immigrants as clearly misguided”. He also noted that an abrupt introduction of a regulation granting a “new type of residence permit for work to third-country nationals” is surprising.

“Our country, with this amendment, essentially becomes a beacon to attract illegal migrants,” he charged.

The statement was issued immediately after the conclusion of the Parliamentary committee session discussing a draft legislation in the social insurances sector, where the clause was tacked on.

Samaras also underlined that “the need to solve the labor (shortage) problem can be addressed through domestic resources… our country, with this amendment, becomes, in essence, a beacon to attract illegal migrants.”

Samaras’ statement

“The sudden submission of an amendment granting a ‘new type of residence permit for work to third-country nationals’ is wrong. In practice, it legalizes all illegal migrants who have been in Greece for the last three years! And this, outright, without a substantive check of the identity of each individual by the state! This happens at a time when migration is shaking the whole of Europe, which seeks a stricter policy!

“I fail to understand why our government further relaxes the possibility of granting a residence and work permit to illegal migrants. Even to those whose asylum application has been rejected! Even if they have a passport, ‘even if it has expired’… And permits are granted automatically, not at the discretion of the competent authorities, as is the case until today.

“I remind you that our government in 2012-2014 had established a legal framework that provided, under very strict conditions, the granting of a residence permit only if the applicants completed seven years of continuous presence in the country. And this regime was maintained even by SYRIZA…

“Our country, with this amendment, essentially becomes a beacon attracting illegal migrants. The need to solve the problem of labor can be addressed through domestic resources. Certainly, with legal migration and inter-governmental agreements where migrants will return to their countries after a certain period. And it is completely off the mark to suggest that legalizing illegal migrants is the solution to the demographic problem! Greece is a nation, not a space! I urge the government to withdraw this amendment and reconsider the whole issue.”

His reaction isn’t the first time that the veteran lawmaker has distanced himself from his own government’s choices, as he recently objected to the legislative recognition of the right to marriage for same-sex couples.

When asked recently in the interview to “Kathimerini,” he stated that he would not vote for the relevant bill in Parliament, noting that “if we recognize them as ‘married,’ we will later be forced – for the sake of ‘making equal’ dissimilar things – to recognize surrogacy in same-sex couples.”

His sentiment on the issue of same-sex marriage is also shared by the current Minister of State Makis Voridis, possibly revealing a broader underlying current of disagreement on the highly contentious matter within the government’s ranks and among its Parliamentary majority.

Voridis has said that he would go so far as to resign if in the event the “party line” was enforced in a relevant bill up for ratification.