Fight­ing for rights to cit­i­zen­ship

The Africa Report - - FRONTLINE -

For Greek-nige­rian Nikos Deji Odu­bi­tan, life in the di­as­pora has not been a walk in the park. His bat­tle to be for­mally recog­nised as a Greek ci­ti­zen is one that re­flects the harsh re­al­i­ties many un­doc­u­mented Africans face in a for­eign land. But Odu­bi­tan’s case was slightly dif­fer­ent. Born in Athens to Nige­rian par­ents, Odu­bi­tan had a rude awak­en­ing at 17 when he re­alised he was a for­eigner in the coun­try he had al­ways called home. “It’s the age at which young Greeks re­ceive their let­ter for com­pul­sory mil­i­tary ser­vice. Like every­one else I was wait­ing for mine but it never came,” he told our sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion Jeune Afrique last year. His sit­u­a­tion was made worse by the fact that he didn’t have Nige­rian cit­i­zen­ship ei­ther: “To ob­tain Nige­rian cit­i­zen­ship, I had to go to the clos­est em­bassy, which was in Italy. But in or­der to leave Greek ter­ri­tory, you need an ID card and a res­i­dence per­mit. It’s the same prob­lem when you’re re-en­ter­ing,” he ex­plained. Due to the strict ‘cit­i­zen­ship by blood-right’ rule in Greece, chil­dren of mi­grant par­ents born in the south-east­ern Euro­pean coun­try can­not ob­tain au­to­matic cit­i­zen­ship. Odu­bi­tan’s only op­tion then was to ap­ply for a res­i­dence per­mit, which also proved chal­leng­ing be­cause he had no en­try stamp in his new pass­port, and even­tu­ally to seek Greek na­tion­al­ity. At a cross­roads, he de­cided to take the ini­tia­tive and do some­thing about it. In 2006 he launched Gen­er­a­tion 2.0 for Rights, Equal­ity and Di­ver­sity, a non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that ad­vo­cates Greek cit­i­zen­ship rights for sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion im­mi­grants and spreads aware­ness about the plight of mi­grant youths in Greece. The ad­vo­cacy group, which works closely with the Direc­torate of Im­mi­gra­tion in Athens, joined forces with the In­sti­tute for Rights, Equal­ity & Di­ver­sity (I-RED) in De­cem­ber 2013 to change the laws, and their work is start­ing to pay off. In July 2015, the Greek par­lia­ment passed a new law amend­ing the Cit­i­zen­ship code and al­low­ing mi­nors born to for­eign na­tion­als to se­cure the right to Greek cit­i­zen­ship un­der cer­tain con­di­tions. But the law has not been im­ple­mented since, and Odu­bi­tan says he won’t stop un­til ev­ery per­son born in Greece with mi­grant ori­gins has direct ac­cess to equal rights. Hav­ing ob­tained Nige­rian cit­i­zen­ship some years ago, Odu­bi­tan has now ac­quired Greek cit­i­zen­ship. “I was born and grew up with two cul­tures and I’m proud of that,” says Odu­bi­tan, who stays connected to his Nige­rian roots and is flu­ent in the Yoruba lan­guage. Oheneba Ama Nti Osei

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