Activists lobby for migrant shelter

Migrant support groups and leftist organizations yesterday held a press conference in the grounds of the old appeals court in central Athens, where hundreds of illegal immigrants have been squatting for the past six months, calling on authorities to transform the run-down building into «the first city shelter for migrants.» «There are more than 550 people living here without basic amenities such as water and electricity,» said Thanassis Kourkoulas of a migrant support group called Deport Racism. According to Kourkoulas, local authorities are unwilling to foot the bill for transforming the Socratous Street site into a shelter for the migrants, most of whom are from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The authorities point to the fact that the building belongs to a private insurance firm that has reportedly asked police to evict the migrants from the premises. Recent reports suggest that a police raid might be in the works. Interior Ministry sources told Kathimerini earlier this week about plans to transfer the residents to a disused military facility in Aspropyrgos, west of Athens. Authorities in Aspropyrgos have expressed their opposition to such an eventuality, as have those at Drepano, near Rio, where another disused military site has been touted as an alternative shelter for hundreds of migrants camping at the western port of Patras in a bid to board ferries to Italy. In the case of the Socratous Street migrants, rights groups are pressing authorities not to «look elsewhere» for a solution but to overhaul the old building and provide them with «a decent place to live.» The groups are also lobbying for the government to grant legal status to all the migrants at the site. «Some of the migrants here have been in Greece for years,» Kourkoulas said.

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