Try to imagine your life without the right to citizenship—without the right to vote, study, and work freely, in the country where you were born and raised.
Imagine no more. This is my story.
My name is Nikos, and I was born in Athens, Greece, 33 years ago to Nigerian parents. I attended a Greek school and shared the same experiences as my classmates: same neighborhood, same playground, same basketball court, same schoolyard.
At least that’s what I thought. But the reality was different.
As a teenager I was regularly stopped and questioned by the police. I did not have a Greek ID to show them, as I was never issued one. At 17, all my male friends were called by the Greek state for their compulsory military service, but I was never conscripted. You might say this was a good thing, but to me it was a signal that something was wrong.
I soon realized that not only did I not have Greek citizenship but that I was not even entitled to access it. The only way for me to continue living legally in the country I was born and raised in was to seek a residence permit. Even this, though, proved a rather challenging process, since there was no entry visa on my passport.
I’m not a Greek citizen—and I’m not the only one. Two hundred thousand of us, young people born or raised in Greece to migrant parents, do not have the citizenship of the country where we grew up, study, work, and live.
In my 20s, I decided I needed to act. I knew how extremely unfair it was to be unable to enjoy my rights only because of my migrant descent. We set up Generation 2.0 for Rights, Equality & Diversity to raise awareness of the situation for youths of migrant backgrounds in Greece and to fight for the rights of all of us.
Our multiethnic and interdisciplinary team represents the new generation of Greeks. Together we are developing cultural and educational actions to promote social change in Greece. Our campaign, Equal Citizens: Campaign for the Right to Citizenship, does exactly that.
We want to challenge the Greek government and the rest of Europe to legislate and recognize us as citizens. To date, you can only hold Greek nationality if you can prove your Greek descent. We stand up for our right to all be equal citizens of the country we call home. We stand up for our right to participate in the society to which we belong, with equality, security, and dignity.