Minister offers grace period to hunger strikers

Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis on Friday proposed that 287 economic migrants, who are in the fifth week of a hunger strike seeking legal residence, be granted a grace period of up to a year during which they can stay in Greece without any risk of deporation.

Ragousis offered a six-month grace period to the migrants, with a possible six-month extension, without determining whether the migrants’ legal status would be reviewed during this time. The offer was made following talks with representatives of a group that has been lobbying on behalf of the protesters, who are staying in a neoclassical building near central Athens.

The representatives of the hunger strikers convened early Friday afternoon to decide on a response to the minister’s offer.

The immigrants, most of whom are from North African countries, are calling on the government to renew their residence permits, which have elapsed due to a lack of social security credits.

Of the 287 migrants on hunger strike, 250 are in Athens and 50 in Thessaloniki. Dozens have been hospitalized in both cities with organ failure.