NEWS

Immigrants on hunger strike given final offer

The fate of some 300 immigrants who have been on hunger strike for more than 40 days in Athens and Thessaloniki remained unclear on Tuesday night, as Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis made a final attempt to convince then to end their protest.

Sources said that Ragousis was due to deliver his proposal by the end of Tuesday but that it stopped well short of the immediate renewal of the migrants? residence permits, guaranteeing their right to remain in Greece. The immigrants, mostly from North African countries, have so far made it clear that they are not willing to settle for anything less and have already rejected one offer from Ragousis.

The latest proposal is thought to repeat the offer of extending the migrants? right to stay in Greece for at least another six months so their cases can be re-examined. Ragousis also suggests allowing the protesters to return to their homeland on humanitarian grounds during this time. They would be allowed back into Greece within this period. However, the minister is not willing to tamper with the law that demands migrants have to live in Greece for at least 12 years before they can be given legal status in exceptional circumstances.

Greek human rights campaigners had suggested reducing this time frame to seven or five years, which would have led to dozens of the protesting migrants being allowed to stay in Greece.

Earlier on Tuesday, two members of Solidarity Initiative, a group which has been supporting the migrants, were arrested after allegedly becoming embroiled in an argument with one of the doctors treating some of the migrants who have been hospitalized. The campaigners allegedly accused the doctor, Antonis Zacharov, of torture after bowls of soup were left on the tables next to the migrants? beds.

On Crete, where most of the immigrants had been living until recently, supporters of the hunger strikers took over the Kidon TV channel and the Diktio radio station to broadcast messages of support.