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PM chairs meeting on Law School occupation by migrants

Δημοσίευση 27 Ιανουαρίου 2011, 12:42 / Ανανεώθηκε 27 Ιουνίου 2013, 14:55
PM chairs meeting on Law School occupation by migrants
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Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday asked that the laws be enforced and that the rule of law be protected, while urging all sides to shoulder their responsibilities, during a government meeting concerning the occupation of an Athens Law School building by economic migrants demanding legal residence for all migrants in Greece.

Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday asked that the laws be enforced and that the rule of law be protected, while urging all sides to shoulder their responsibilities, during a government meeting concerning the occupation of an Athens Law School building by economic migrants demanding legal residence for all migrants in Greece.

After the meeting, Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou was due to meet Athens University Rector Theodosis Pelegrinis late on Wednesday evening. According to sources, the minister intended to convey a message that the rector had an obligation to apply the laws and take action if he was aware that the law governing university asylum rules was being violated.

Participants in the meeting, which began immediately after that of ruling PASOK's Parliamentary Group, included Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis, Deputy Labour Minister Anna Dalara, Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, Diamantopoulou and the premier's aide Reggina Vartzeli.

Meanwhile, the appeals court prosecutors' office on Wednesday announced the launch of a preliminary inquiry into the occupation of the building by illegal migrants, to determine whether the university's rector failed to take necessary action to prevent the occupation and were guilty of breach of duty.

Under Greek law, university premises enjoy 'asylum' and are off limits to police unless they are specifically invited by university authorities or when a serious crime is being committed. For many people this law, originally designed to protect free thinking within universities from authoritarian state interference, has since been open to various kinds of abuses, including criminal actions, that have little to do with freedom of thought for academics.

Along those lines, main opposition New Democracy announced plans to table a draft bill for the abolition of university asylum laws as these exist to day, on the grounds that these were outdated and no longer served any purpose.

Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis, on the other hand, urged university authorities to adopt a clear stance on the issue and stressed that it was the rectors' job to safeguard university asylum from abuse.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Kastanidis underlined that "university asylum is a necessary institution that exists to protect the academic community and the free movement of ideas and not to solve the housing needs of migrants".

The issue was raised earlier in the Parliamentary session when the right-wing ND and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) parties clashed with Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) MPs, who strenuously objected to calls for the abolition of asylum as "political hysteria".

Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga stressed that her party would oppose pressures to install police within universities and give them powers to violate this from time to time.

"The asylum can and should be defended by the students against both the police and any one else that seeks to abuse it," she added.

Papariga also highlighted the plight of illegal migrants that frequently ended up living in Greece for years without any legal status, subject to the worst sorts of exploitation and bereft of even basic rights.

"The interior minister should announce measures in favour of migrants here and now," she underlined.

A group of 237 migrants lacking legal residence status were brought to Athens on Sunday and installed in the old Law School building, which is currently unused and undergoing renovation. Once inside, they announced the start of a mass hunger strike in order to demand legal residence for themselves and all the roughly 400,000 migrants currently living in Greece without residence permits. Another 50 migrants have also begun a hunger strike at the Thessaloniki Labour Centre.