NEWS

Migrants return to Crete after hunger strike

The 237 immigrants who had been on hunger strike for six weeks in a bid to get legal status on Monday vacated the central Athens building they had been occupying for most of their stay and boarded ferries to return to Crete.

A representative for the group lobbying for the migrants? rights said all of them had received documents from police confirming that they have been granted a six-month grace period to stay in the country which can be extended by six months at the discretion of authorities.

Most of the migrants waiting to board buses to Piraeus in the early afternoon appeared calm and ready for their return journey. Several made the victory sign to photographers.

But there were cries of protest by a handful of migrants who tore up their papers, complaining that they had not granted them the legitimate status they had sought. Two of the migrants doused themselves with kerosene and threatened to set themselves alight but others stopped them from igniting the fuel.

Meanwhile, in Parliament, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos fielded criticism by the outspoken deputy of the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Adonis Georgiadis, regarding the cost of the treatment for the hunger strikers, many of whom were hospitalized.

?How much did the treatment cost and who is going to pay for it?? Georgiadis inquired, adding that the government should send the bill to the leftist organization that lobbied for the migrants and to the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which backed the hunger strikers? campaign. The minister said the cost of treating the migrants was around 100,000 euros, noting that this was a small amount compared to the 150 million euros spent each year to treat migrants living in Greece.

Independent studies suggest that the cost for the annual medical treatment of illegal migrants is around 5 million euros.