Hunger strikers reject minister’s offer

Representatives of a group campaigning for 287 undocumented migrants who have been on hunger strike for more than a month in a bid to get legal residence on Friday rejected a proposal by Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis that they call off their action in exchange for a six-month grace period during which their status would be reviewed.

Ragousis offered a six-month grace period, with a possible six-month extension, during which time the migrants would not face any risk of deportation. But a group lobbying for the migrants to be granted legal status rejected the offer out of hand, noting that it was no different to previous offers by authorities.

In a joint statement, Ragousis and Labor and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos, who also attended the meeting at the offices of the General Confederation of Greek Labor, said: ?human life is not something to be bartered and we intend to continue our efforts to reach a solution on this basis.?

One of the hunger strikers who attended the meeting asked Ragousis directly why he would not give him legal status, eliciting the response: ?If I do it for you, I have to do it for thousands of others.?

The campaigners had asked for the hunger strikers to be granted special status, on humanitarian grounds, which is given to migrants who have had residence permits in the past or who can prove that they have been living in Greece for more than 12 years.

Of the 287 hunger strikers, 237 are in Athens and 50 in Thessaloniki. Dozens have been hospitalized. Campaigners said that seven had stopped drinking water.

The government on Friday played down a dispute between Ragousis and Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos after the former suggested that Venizelos had made uninformed comments about the government?s handling of the matter when he expressed concern that one of the migrants might die.

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