Fifty-five of the 300 illegal migrants on hunger strike in central Athens have been admitted to hospital with acute dehydration, the beginnings of kidney failure and heart palpitations, according to a doctor that is monitoring their condition.

The migrants are now in the fifth week of a hunger strike originally begun to demand that the government grant legal residence to all illegal immigrants currently in the country. The government has ruled out all prospect of mass legalisation of migrants, including those on hunger strike.

According to doctor Thanassis Karabelis, none of the migrants admitted to hospital were in critical condition and their kidney function had been restored. He warned, however, that another 10 people were about to be sent to hospital and the number could have increased to more than 70 by the end of the evening.

"There is a strong chance that someone might be left with a chronic health problem while at any moment we face the possibility of a sudden death. We are playing with fire," Karabelis said.

Karabelis has monitored the condition of the illegal immigrants since they first began their hunger strike on January 25. Since Sunday, 36 of them have stopped taking water, sugar and salt.

Government spokesman George Petalotis repeated on Tuesday that the government will on no account grant legal status to anyone not meeting the legal conditions.

"The government respects of the laws of the state and no one would want us to reach the point where anyone, even through a hunger strike, could extort solutions of illegal legalisation, we insist that no mass legalisations will be made," he stressed.

He noted, also, that the government has already taken steps to make the requirements for collecting the social security stamps needed to renew a residence and work permit more elastic.