A group of influential Greek journalists, including the head of the national journalists union POESY Stamatis Nikolopoulos, investigative journalist Stelios Kouloglou and columnists from several Athens dailies, on Thursday expressed support and solidarity with the 300-odd illegal migrants on hunger strike to demand legal residence status.
At a press conference at the "Ypatia" building where the mass hunger strike is taking place, the journalists asked the government to immediately begin dialogue with the hunger-striking migrants. They also announced a decision to send a delegation of journalists to Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos and ask him to undertake an initiative to resolve the problem.
The 300-odd migrants housed in the Ypatia building have been on hunger strike since January 25, taking only tea, sugar, salt and water, to demand measures granting legal residence to all migrants currently in Greece. Several of them were previously legally resident but were unable to renew residence permits to stay in the country because they could not gathered the minimum number of work stamps required.
Five weeks into the hunger strike, at least 70 have needed hospitalisation for dehydration and onset of kidney failure, while doctors monitoring their condition have warned that the risk of a sudden death or irreversible damage to the health is rising daily.
So far, the government had ruled out all possibility of a mass legalisation for migrants, including those on hunger strike, and emphasised that the government cannot allow itself to be pressured into backing down by such methods.
Gov't: Migrants' supporters hypocritical, preventing them from receiving food
The government on Thursday lambasted the most vocal supporters of nearly 300 hunger striking migrants currently demanding their legalisation, with a spokesman referring directly to unbridled “hypocrisy".
"Hypocrisy has its limits much more when human lives are at stake," spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said, referring to "those who are supposedly in solidarity" with the illegal migrants still on hunger strike at the Hypatia street building in downtown Athens.
Petalotis said the government “calls on all those who allegedly support the struggle of the migrants to realise that they have no right to play with the lives of these people and the country’s fate internationally.”
He underlined that the government respects the migrants’ right go on a hunger strike, while nevertheless emphasising that “we will not allow those exploiting these people to prevent them from receiving food and water”.
The government proceeded even further, charging that there is evidence showing that specific physicians tending to the hunger strikers, as well as supporters, prevented them from receiving food and water when they (migrants) requested it.
"The hypocrisy of those allegedly in solidarity with the hunger strikers has crossed all limits ... we should see who these people are."
He also said that hospital authorities will be ordered to proceed with the "self-evident", referring to specific accusations made by Attiki Health Inspector Aris Mousionis in a radio interview, according to which, hunger strikers admitted to hospitals were prevented by their escorts from receiving food.