Tense talks to end Law School standoff

Negotiations aimed at convincing more than 230 hunger-striking immigrants and their supporters to leave Athens University’s Law School went on into Thursday night after the institution’s rector asked for the asylum law to be temporarily lifted, paving the way for police to surround the building.

Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis was last reportedly speaking to representatives of the migrants and the group of leftists, students and human rights campaigners who are supporting the hunger strikers. There were also reports that a prosecutor had spoken to the immigrants and their supporters, who had agreed, under unspecified conditions, to move to another building away from the campus.

Earlier, police had moved into the area around the Law School building in central Athens, leading to a number of major roads being closed. Panepistimiou metro station was also shut as authorities feared clashes either with the migrants or several hundred people who marched in their support.

The police were mobilized after the university’s rector, Theodosis Pelegrinis, requested that the asylum law, which prevents officers from entering any tertiary institution’s grounds, be temporarily lifted. His request was forwarded to first instance prosecutor Eleni Raiko, who notified police and placed five prosecutors on standby in case authorities enter the university, where the migrants have been housed since Monday.

On Thursday afternoon, the undocumented immigrants rejected an offer from the university to be transferred to another building. The university reached an agreement with four nongovernmental organizations for the protesters to be transferred to an undisclosed location. However, campaigners said the migrants felt it was not in their interests to leave the university.

?They have decided not to move to another place because they do not feel they are bothering anyone,? said Nikos Giannopoulos, a representative of Solidarity Initiative, which is supporting the protesters. ?They also believe that the other building being proposed does not fulfill the criteria they had agreed on [before the protest began].?

The government condemned the stance of the migrants and their supporters. ?This is an abuse of university asylum by a group of migrants that has been led there and is being manipulated by specific organizations and political forces,? said Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou.