The full report on Greece is available for download here.

Geography and population statistics

  • Location: Southern Europe, cheapest bordering the Aegean Sea, here Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, between Albania and Turkey
  • Borders: land borders 1,228 km (Albania 282 km, Bulgaria 494 km, Turkey 206 km, Macedonia 246 km), coastline 13,676 km
  • Population: 10,772,967 (July 2013 est.)
  • Urban population: 61% of total population (2010), rate of urbanization: 0.6% annually (2010-15 est.)
  • Major cities: ATHENS (capital) 3.252 million; Thessaloniki 834,000 (2009
  • Net migration rate: 2.32 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)
    (Source: CIA The World Factbook)


Political situation

  • Government type: parliamentary republic
  • Independence: 1830 (from the Ottoman Empire)
  • Constitution: 11 June 1975; amended March 1986, April 2001, and May 2008
  • Legal system: civil legal system based on Roman law
  • Chief of state: President Karolos PAPOULIAS (since 12 March 2005)
  • Head of government: Prime Minister Antonis SAMARAS (since 20 June 2012)
    (Source: CIA The World Factbook)


Migration patterns and trends

Greece, like all other Southern European countries, concentrates large numbers of irregular immigrants. Geography has been a decisive factor, by Greece’s very location naturally at the Southeast external border of the EU, neighbouring non-EU countries (Turkey, Albania, Macedonia). The role of the labour market and of a large shadow economy have been crucial, involving high demand for cheap and flexible work mostly in sectors characterised by high seasonality, such as tourism, construction and agriculture, or in domestic-sphere activities, such as caretaking, cleaning and housework.

Greece’s transition to mass immigration in the early 1990s, involved predominantly clandestine movements, mostly originating from neighbouring Balkan countries, overwhelmingly from Albania. Back then, the state machinery proved rather unprepared and insufficient to respond to developments following the collapse of regimes in Bulgaria, Romania and especially Albania, but governments also showed unwillingness to acknowledge Greece’’s de facto transformation into a destination country. The first immigration Bill passed in 1991 was exceptionally restrictive, though for most of the 1990s there has been silent toleration of hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants available to work informally and for low wages in agriculture, construction, tourism, small manufactures, cleaning and domestic care.

A first two-stage regularisation scheme enacted by presidential decrees in 1997 received about 371,640 applications, though strict requirements deterred many migrants from moving on to the second stage, while provisions where only for short periods of one year. Law 2910/2001 provided for a second regularisation programme, granting nearly 230,000 permits over a total of about 270,000 applications. Law 3386/2005 provided the framework for both status renewals and regularisations of undocumented immigrants, which resulted in about 96,000 new permits. Apart from a follow-up regularisation of limited scale for special categories of migrants in 2007, no further extensive programme has been applied. This has resulted in a significant reduction of the estimated numbers of undocumented migrants, from about 400,000 in 2000 to a maximum of 300,000 in 2004 and even fewer (172,000-280,000) in 2007 (Maroukis 2012).

In the meantime, shifting channels and routes of migration, and adjustments of smuggling operations to policy developments, have resulted in increasing flows towards or though Greece over the second half of the 2000s, though Greece’s eastern maritime and land borders with Turkey. Estimates on the total stock of immigrants with irregular status residing in the country reached an alleged number of 350,000 in 2010 and approached 400,000 in 2011 (ibid.). Around 2009-2010 Greece had come to receive the majority of migratory flows into the EU (estimated at more than 80%), though lately (in 2012-2013) the flow appears substantially decreased. At the same time, however, the challenges facing the Greek economy and society amidst the deepening economic crisis affects migrants in a variety of ways, including some losing their legal status as a result of unemployment and their resulting inability to renew their permits for not achieving the required amount of social security contributions. Considering also trends of return migration due to the crisis in the last three years or so,  by December 2012 the total number of valid stay permits of Third Country nationals legally residing in the country was 440,118, about 27% lower than their number in December 2009.


Selected bibliography

Baldwin-Edwards, M. (2008) “Immigrants in Greece: characteristics and issues of regional distribution”, Mediterranean Migration Observatory Working Paper Series, W.P. n.10, Athens: Panteion University.

Cavounidis, J. (2006) “Labor market impact of migration: employment structures and the case of Greece”, International Migration Review, 40 (3): 635–60.

EMN (2012) Practical issues for reducing irregular migration. Greece report. European Migration Network.

Fakiolas, R. (2003) “Regularising undocumented immigrants in Greece: procedures and effects”, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 29 (3): 535-561.

Glytsos, Nicholas, P. (2005) “Stepping from Illegality to Legality and Advancing towards Integration: The Case of Immigrants in Greece”, International Migration Review, 39: 819-840.

Kasimis, Ch. and Papadopoulos, A.G. (2005) “The Multifunctional Role of Migrants in Greek Countryside: Implications for Rural Economy and Society”, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 31 (1): 99-127.

Lambrianidis, L. and Lyberaki, A. (2001) Albanian immigrants in Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki: Paratiritis

Lianos, T, Kanellopoulos, K., Gregou, M., Gemi, E. and Papakonstantinou, P. (2008), An estimattion of the volume of aliens residing illegally in Greece, Athens: IMEPO.

Maroukis T, Iglicka K, Gmaj K. (2011) “Irregular migration and informal economy in Southern and Central-Eastern Europe: breaking the vicious cycle?”, International Migration, 49 (5):129-156.

Maroukis, Th. (2012) “Update report Greece: The number of irregular migrants in Greece at the end of 2010 and 2011”, Database on Irregular Migration, Update report.

Maroukis. Th. (2008) “Country report: Greece”. Report prepared for the project CLANDESTINO Undocumented Migration: counting the uncountable – data and trends across Europe, EU 6thh Framework Programme.

Marvakis, A., Parsanoglou, D. and Pavlou, M. eds (2001), Migrants in Greece. Athens: Ellinika Grammata

Psimmenos, I. (1995) Immigration from the Balkans: Social Exclusion in Athens. Athens: Glory Book – Papazisis.

Sarris, A. and Zografakis, S. (1999) “A computable general equilibrium assessment of the impact of illegal immigration on the Greek economy”, Journal of Population Economics, 12: 155-182.

Triandafyllidou, A. and Ambrosini, M. (2011) “Irregular migration control in Italy and Greece: strong fencing and weak gate-keeping strategies serving the labour market”, European Journal of Migration and Law, 13: 251-273.

Triandafyllidou, A. and Maroukis, Th, (2010) Migration in 21st century Greece. Athens: Kritiki.

Triandafyllidou, A. and Maroukis, Th. (2008) “The Case of the Greek Islands: The Challenge of Migration at the EU’s Southeastern Sea Borders”, Documentos CIDOB, Serie: Migraciones, n. 17. Immigration Flows and the Management of the EU’s Southern Maritime Borders. Barcelona: CIDOB, pp. 63-82.