University, government at loggerheads over migrants

More than 230 immigrants entered the second day of a hunger strike at Athens University?s Law School on Wednesday, as academics and the government reached an impasse on how to deal with the situation.

During a news conference on Wednesday morning, Athens University rector Theodosis Pelegrinis called on the government to step in and resolve the matter. The university asylum law means that the police cannot enter the premises to remove the migrants unless a criminal offense has been committed and the rector requests their presence there.

However, Pelegrinis was careful not to call for the police to enter university grounds, instead asking for Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis to meet with the migrants, who are demanding residence permits.

?We recognize that there is a humanitarian problem but first of all it is an issue of immigration policy and that is the state?s responsibility,? said Pelegrinis, who repeated accusations that leftist groups are using the migrants for their own political gain.

The rector also called for Attica Governor Yiannis Sgouros and Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis to join Ragousis.

The government, however, rejected Pelegrinis?s proposal and said it was up to university authorities to resolve the problem.

Sources close to Ragousis said that University of Athens officials had to display ?seriousness? and use all their powers to ensure that the institution functions properly.

The government has made it clear that it will not grant the migrants, most of whom had been working on Crete, residence permits or launch a wider amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

The presence of the migrants in university grounds has sparked a political row over how they were allowed to get there and whether the government should repeal the asylum law.

?Everything today points to the need to abolish asylum, an outdated law,? said New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras.

The Supreme Court asked chief appeals prosecutor Yiannis Sakellakos to investigate the circumstances that led to the migrants squatting at the Law School with the help of leftist students and human rights campaigners.

The Red Cross delivered food and blankets to the Law School on Wednesday.