PM to resist calls to scrap university asylum law

Demands from opposition parties for scrapping the university asylum law – which allows police to enter institutions only on very rare occasions – are likely to be shrugged off by the government this week, sources have indicated.

The conservative opposition New Democracy, nationalist Popular Orthdodox Rally (LAOS) and the centrist Democratic Alliance all called last week for the law, first implemented in the early 1980s, to be withdrawn. Their demands came after more than 230 immigrants and their supporters took over Athens University’s Law School from last Monday so they could stage a protest there.

The migrants were moved out on Friday after hours of negotiations but their presence at the Law School reignited the debate about whether the police should continue to be banned from campuses unless invited onto the grounds by the institutions’ rectors if there is evidence that a serious crime is being or could be committed.

Both ND and LAOS submitted proposals to Parliament for the law to be scrapped completely. The government, busy trying to defuse a potentially dangerous situation at the Law School, tried to avoid getting drawn into an argument about the asylum legislation. However, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis was very critical of the campaigners that had helped the immigrants reach the Law School, arguing that they were undermining the asylum rule.

Sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini that although past opinion polls have shown that a majority of Greeks are in favor of the asylum law being scrapped, Prime Minister George Papandreou is against taking such drastic action.

He is apparently in favor of making changes to the legislation so that it becomes easier for authorities to enter university grounds when there are serious reasons.

Government sources are aware that New Democracy in particular will try to outmaneuver PASOK on this issue but Papandreou is expected to remain firm. The conservatives also attacked the government last week over the role of the Greek Migrants’ Forum, a non-governmental organization, which ND claimed was partly funded by PASOK and which helped organize the immigrants’ protest.

In a statement on Sunday, the group denied categorically that it was funded by the Socialists and said that although it supported the protestors’ calls for residence permits, it did not help them organize their hunger strike but rather advised them against taking such risky action.