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Criticism over univ. occupation; gov't dismisses migrants' demands for legalisation

Δημοσίευση 26 Ιανουαρίου 2011, 12:51 / Ανανεώθηκε 27 Ιουνίου 2013, 14:55
Criticism over univ. occupation;  gov't dismisses migrants' demands  for legalisation
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A group of economic migrants taking part in a mass hunger strike that began on Tuesday at the old building of the Athens Law School and their local supporters held a press conference to press their demands that Greece grant a residence permit to all migrants in the country, both legal and illegal.

A group of economic migrants taking part in a mass hunger strike that began on Tuesday at the old building of the Athens Law School and their local supporters held a press conference to press their demands that Greece grant a residence permit to all migrants in the country, both legal and illegal.

The migrants called their hunger strike a "historic event" and claimed that it was "the largest hunger strike by migrants in the history of Europe".

There are 287 migrants taking part in the hunger strike in total, 237 of them camped inside the old law school building in central Athens, and the remaining 50 in Thessaloniki's Labour Centre. Rather than seeking political asylum, the mostly North African and 20-something men are demanding legalisation.

A Greek spokesman for the group underlined that they did not intend to leave the premises of the school, where they are protected by university asylum laws, until their demands are met.

"We are determined to die in order to acquire equal rights," he stressed but did not clarify what action the group would take if the government granted residence permits to those involved but not the remaining 460,000 illegal immigrants now estimated to be living in Greece without valid documents or a renewed residence permit.

The entire group arrived in Athens from Crete by ferry boat early morning Sunday, a week after the law school's faculty rejected a request by a leftist student grouping to host the hunger strikers.

Sharp gov't response

On its part, the interior ministry on Tuesday clarified that there is "no intention or possibility to legalise, en masse and unconditionally, all of the foreign nationals that have entered and reside in the country illegally."

Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, who holds the public order portfolio, first reminded that the university asylum regime is the exclusive domain of university officials. "... This is the substance and content of the university asylum, to ensure the unhindered exchange of ideas and knowledge in higher education campuses." Moreover, Papoutsis said the primary organisers of the "takeover", the "Forum for Migrants", wants the immediate and legalisation of all illegal migrants in Greece, something he said flies in the face of the European legal framework and the Greek constitution.

An announcement by the education ministry, which referred to a "camp for migrants" inside the school, was equally caustic. Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulos referred to an "outrageous" incident of "political forces exploiting, in the most provocative manner, human agony in order to serve their petty political expediencies; destroying university liberties (in the process)". She also called on the law school's administration to defend the institution's academic operation.

KKE

Moreover, the Communist Party charged that "whoever led the migrants to the law school (building) merely exposes them (migrants) to greater slandering and threats by reactionary parties and mechanism; to state oppression and blackmail by the networks that are exploiting them."

Greece has been swamped by successive waves of illegal immigration since 1990, with the most recent influx of would-be migrants hailing from mostly Third World countries in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. In most cases migrant smugglers ferry illegals from neighbouring Turkey by land and sea, whereas a majority of the migrants apparently want to clandestinely depart Greece for a western or northern European destination.

The Greek government recently announced plans to erect a fence along a 12.8-kilometre stretch of border it shares with Turkey not located along the route of the Evros River in NE Greece. Additionally, Frontex units from other European countries have commenced sea patrols in the eastern Aegean and guard duty in the Evros border prefecture in a bid to assist Greek forces.