House to vote on university asylum law

House to vote on university asylum law

Greek Parliament will vote Thursday on a provision introduced by the government which will scrap the so-called university asylum and allow law enforcement and other authorities to enter campuses to tackle crime.

The asylum had been originally introduced to protect protesting students and freedom of expression, but the conservative administration says this has degenerated into a cover for lawlessness.

The new legislation published by the Education Ministry and tabled in Parliament last Friday does away with a provision introduced by the previous SYRIZA administration, which forbade police from entering university grounds unless they were granted permission to do so by the council of rectors in order to respond to a felony or a crime against human life.

According to Education Minister Niki Kerameus, the objective of the government’s legislative initiative is “to restore common sense” and put an end to what she called a “distortion” of asylum law which has been “manipulated” and turned into “an asylum for lawlessness.”

“With these new regulations we will strengthen academic freedom and the free movement of ideas and we will make sure that illegal actions… are punished and are prevented inside and outside university grounds,” she said this week.

The initiative has been blasted by main opposition SYRIZA, which yesterday submitted a request for the legislation to be withdrawn on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, even though a special parliamentary committee had recently upheld its legality.

On the contrary, the committee said, the provision upholds and “protects academic freedom and the free expression and movement of ideas.”

Nonetheless, SYRIZA MPs have been scathing about the initiative, with lawmaker Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, who was a spokesman of the previous administration, referring to a “far-right frenzy” of the government which, he said, wants “to control universities.”

MP Pavlos Polakis said that “ideas are not defeated by laws” while Meropi Tzoufi decried the government’s approach as a “threat to the foundations of academic peace.”

For its part, center-left Movement for Change said it agrees in principle with the bid to fight crime on campus but has objected to the provision on the grounds that it paves the way for police to enter university grounds on the pretext of preventing crime before one has actually been committed.

KINAL leader Fofi Gennimata has asked for the wording regarding the police’s right to enter universities to be changed so that law enforcement can only intervene if a crime has been committed.