Nearly 300 immigrants on hunger strike occupy Athens UniversityJanuary 26th, 2011 - 12:30 am ICT by BNO News
ATHENS (BNO NEWS) — About 300 immigrants demanding to be legalized began a hunger strike at the Law School of Athens University on Tuesday amidst criticisms from academics and politicians, the Kathimerini newspaper reported.
The immigrants, who are mostly from North Africa, had been working on the southern Mediterranean island of Crete before arriving in Athens late on Sunday. They were taken to the Law School building by human rights campaigners to begin the hunger strike, which is intended to pressure the government to grant them residence permits.
Some 50 immigrants in the northern port city of Thessaloniki have joined them in their hunger strike. Meanwhile, University officials have criticized the presence of the protesters in the building, which is currently being renovated.
“The building is not ready, it does not have proper plumbing or electricity,” the school’s dean Michalis Tsinizelis told Skai Radio. “We unanimously decided that we could not allow them into the building.”
The university’s asylum law prohibits police from entering academic institutions’ grounds without special permission. Deputy Education Minister Fofi Gennimata agreed that the presence of the protesting migrants at the Law School was not “fitting for a university.”
Student and immigrant rights groups said the protest was intended to draw attention to the increasing number of protests currently being staged by immigrants across the country.
Greece is struggling to contain a wave of illegal immigration. Human rights organizations calculate that there are around 500,000 illegal immigrants currently living in the country.
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