NEWS

Gov’t, academics blame each other for migrant protest

Government officials and academic authorities blamed each other on Tuesday for a sit-in at Athens University?s Law School by more than 200 illegal immigrants who said they were starting a hunger strike to push for residence permits.

?The transformation of the Law School into a camp for migrants goes beyond all limits of tolerance,? said Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou. ?It is the duty of university authorities, by law, to ensure that the university operates as an academic institution,? she added.

Theodosis Pelegrinis, the rector of Athens University, conceded that ?laws must be enforced? but added that the responsibility laid with another cabinet member, Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis. ?It is easy to shift the blame here and there but what is certain is that the Citizens? Protection Ministry had been briefed about the situation so that it could take the required action to avert the current deadlock,? Pelegrinis said. He continued by saying that the university?s authorities would seek ?the least painful solution,? without elaborating. Scheduled lessons and lectures at the university have been canceled until the end of the week.

Sources told Kathimerini on Tuesday that the government had no intention of mobilizing the police, which would violate the university asylum law banning the forceful entry of officers onto university grounds.

Diamantopoulou suggested that the migrants were being exploited by leftist groups. ?These unfortunate people did not find themselves in the Law School by chance, they were guided there,? she said. ?It is outrageous that political powers are taking advantage of human exasperation in such a provocative way,? she added in an apparent attack on the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA).

Earlier on Tuesday the government had ruled out an amnesty for illegal immigrants after 287 protesters — chiefly economic migrants from North African countries — began a hunger strike at the Athens faculty and at a union building in Thessaloniki, insisting that they were prepared to die while trying to get legal status in Greece. The Interior Ministry said it would not launch a ?mass legalization? program, noting that two amnesty drives by the previous New Democracy government had led to 150,000 people ?indiscriminately? obtaining the right to remain in the country