ATHENS – Greek Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras has lost the backing of his coalition partner, the far-right wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) who said they won’t go along with a bill to give citizenship to the children of immigrants.
The rift came only 10 days after the new government was formed when SYRIZA fell two votes short of a majority in Parliament and needed the 13 votes that came with ANEL, which finished sixth in the Jan. 25 elections.
ANEL leader Panos Kammenos, who was made Defense Minister, said his lawmakers “are not sheep” and won’t do all that Tsipras or SYRIZA wants even while supporting the government’s anti-austerity stance in dealing with international lenders.
While Members of Parliament almost always obey orders from party leaders on how to vote, Kammenos said his would vote the way they want although he doesn’t want them to support the citizenship bill.
Meanwhile SYRIZA officials played down the split and said they expected lawmakers from opposition parties would give enough support to have the measure pass.
Leading up to the elections, SYRIZA’s Tasia Christodoulopoulou, who is now Alternate Immigration Policy Minister, had said all children of immigrants would get citizenship under the Leftists administration.
A law passed in 2010 which offers citizenship to the children of second-generation immigrants was deemed to partially violate the Constitution by the Council of State.
The next government drafted a new law, granting citizenship to the children of immigrants who have completed nine years of studies at a Greek school, completed Greek secondary school education or graduated from a Greek university. The bill did not get to Parliament.
Speaking to Kathimerini, the outgoing General Secretary of the Interior Ministry, Angelos Syrigos, said he believed the bill would get 250 votes in the 300-seat House.
Christodoulopoulou also said the government will stop the roundup of illegal immigrants, called Xenios Zeus, that had been pushed by the coalition led by former Premier and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras who said he wanted them all deported.
Many illegal immigrants are being held in detention camps whose conditions haves been roundly and widely criticized by human interest groups as inhumane.
Xenios Zeus supporters said it cleared areas of Athens of unlawful immigrants, drug use and rampant crime.
During an interview with the left.gr website, Christodoulopoulou said that the new SYRIZA-led government will also examine ways to replace Greece’s migrant detention centers.
“These camps are incompatible with humanitarianism, the rule of law, and any sense of reason,” said Christodoulopoulou, a lawyer and activist.
Various human rights bodies have condemned Greek police sweep operations for being based on racial profiling. Immigration detention has also attracted broad international condemnation, as Greece’s detention efforts have received large injections of European funding.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in a dozen cases that detention conditions in the country – a key transit point for Asian and African immigrants seeking to sneak into the European Union – amount to degrading treatment.