Fotini Apostolou
Department of Translation and Intercultural Studies, School of English,
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Background information
 Legal Framework
 Reality
 Community Interpreter Training
 Future prospects
Greece turned into a
receiving country overnight
Until the 1970s large
outflows of Greeks
(average 100,000 a
year in the peak
decade 1960-1970)
Since the early 1990s
large inflows of illegal
Today, about
1,000,000 immigrants
in the country – 10%
of the population
800,000 legal
immigrants and
undocumented aliens
Gradual improvement of economic
situation and living conditions in S
 Side effect of restrictive measures
taken by UK, France, Germany,
Switzerland, and others
“Quite often, Greeks are proud because
‘there is no Lepen’ in the country. But this
soothing complacency can be seen from
another, quite foul, perspective: racist
discourse runs through the entire political
spectrum and this may render its
identification and combating quite
difficult” (Christopoulos, “The End of
Ethnic Homogeneity”)
Immigration trends
First immigrants early 1990s
 Legal immigrants around 800,000
(including ethnic Greeks)
 Illegal immigrants 200,000 (2001
 126,000 foreign nationals arrested
in 2009
Arrests of immigrants for
illegal entry/residence 2009
Albanians 63,500
Afghans 17,800
Palestinians 10,700
Somalis 7,700
Iraqis 7,700
Pakistanis 4,800
Georgians 2,500
Eritreans 1,500
“Migration in Greece at a
Glance” Gropas, Triantafyllidou
Immigration policy in Greece was quick to
develop in terms of putting into practice
stricter border controls and other
enforcement measures. However, there has
been a significant time lag in designing and
implementing a more comprehensive
framework that includes the regularization of
undocumented aliens, and that aims toward
the integration of this population across all
sectors and areas of the host country.
Legal framework:
Asylum Procedure
Presidential Decree 90/2008 as
amended by Presidential Decree
81/2009 (transposing Council
Directive 2005/85/EC “On minimum
standards on procedures in Member
States for granting and withdrawing
refugee status”)
Article 8
all applicants for asylum … shall be informed in a
language which they may reasonably be
supposed to understand of the procedure to be
followed and of their rights and obligations
during the procedure and the possible
consequences of not complying with their
obligations and not cooperating with the
These services shall be paid for out of public
Article 10
The interview is always conducted with
the support of an interpreter capable of
ensuring the necessary communication,
so that the interested party confirms what
s/he states in his/her application and
provides explanations, especially
concerning his/her precise personal data
or the non-possession of a passport or
other official travel document, etc.
Legal framework:
Court Interpreting
Greek Code of Criminal Procedure
Article 233
1. The person who conducts the interrogation or
the person who conducts the discussion in court
appoints an interpreter when the offender,
witness or party does not speak Greek
2. The interpreter is appointed from a list drawn
up by the Council of Magistrates … the first ten
days of September.
Legal framework:
Court Interpreting
Article 237: Document translation and written
depositions in foreign language
1. When a translation of documents is needed
and will take a long time, a period of time is
allocated in which the interpreter will have to
hand in the translation; the deadline can be
extended. …
2. As an exception, when a witness or the
accused does not know Greek …, s/he can give a
written deposition or plea in a foreign language;
the deposition is included in the file together
with its translation, which is drafted later in
accordance with par. 1.
Reality: Asylum Procedure
Report on PD 81/2009 published on the
website of the Greek Section of Amnesty
International in 2009
Another crucial issue which casts doubts over the
efficiency of the new asylum procedure is the one of
interpreters. Given that the Directorate of Aliens in Attica,
which so far examines almost 95% of asylum applications,
faces a lack of interpreters, the problem will only become
even greater for the other Police Directorates which will
have to secure the services of the necessary for their
needs interpreters both in numbers and in languages
Reality: Asylum procedure
Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe
Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report
on the issue of human rights of asylum
seekers after a visit to Greece in
December 2008”
“The Commissioner has noted with grave concern that the
problem of lack of sufficient interpretation has been a
chronic problem in the Greek asylum system”.
Out of 15,900 applicants in 2009, refugee
status granted to 35 people.
Reality: Court Interpreting
The law does not refer to specific qualifications
Extremely low compensation (17 euros for each
court case, 11 euros for interrogation procedure)
Long delays in payment of interpreters
Too many cases demand interpreting
(in 2009 out of the 300,000 complaints filed in
the Evelpidon Court Houses in Athens, 130,000
involved witnesses, victims or offenders who did
not speak Greek; it is estimated that on a daily
basis 150 to 180 complaints filed with the threemember Misdemeanour Court in Athens involve
Community Interpreter
Ministry of the Interior
“Training Programmes for
Intercultural Mediators” ran by two
private Vocational Training Centres
in 2007 and 2008
Trained 300 Greeks and legal
100-hour and 80-hour programmes.
Contents of training: 2007
Characteristic phenomena of intercultural
societies – principles of interculturalism
The image of the “alien” in Greece and
information on target-groups
Institutional and legal issues –Services provided
by public and private bodies, communication
with public services and use of services
Psychosocial needs of immigrants and support
Communication and negotiation techniques
Contents of training: 2007
The concept of the cultural and the intercultural.
The contemporary social-national perspective
and multicultural dynamics
Interculturalism and social negotiation.
Management models
Theory and practice of negotiative intervention
in Intercultural Consultation
Greek legislative and institutional framework
Communication principles
Development of personal skills
Contents of training: 2008
Introduction to cultural specificities in health
Interpreting modes and techniques
Consultation and Career Guidance
Other training bodies
Training provided by NGOs but on a
random and informal basis
 No training from Universities
 No cooperation between
Government and Universities
Future prospects
The Minister for the Protection of the Citizen
(former Ministry of Public Order) announced
in October his will to employ immigrants as
intercultural mediators in Police Departments
Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity also
announced a similar programme for major
hospitals in Athens and Thessaloniki
Similar announcements from some
Pressures for necessary framework
for integration of immigrants
 Current framework not effective in
improving treatment of immigrants
by state
 Need for improvement of services
“The contemptuous attitude of public bodies
toward the foreigner as user of public
services, reflects a more general attitude
of lack of respect for his/her dignity.
Foreigners are not treated as subjects of
rights but as objects of contradictory
regulations, whose positive content does
not always correspond to improvements
in reality” (Chatzi 2001)

Interpreting Services for Immigrants in Greece