NEWS

Iranian refugees deny threats

A group of Iranian asylum seekers in Greece are not linked to any alleged attack threat on Greek embassies made in their name, a leftist organization assisting their protest said yesterday. «We condemn strongly and absolutely any type of violence toward all Greek embassies, all Greek institutions of any type and all Greek citizens in Greece and all over the world,» the United Against Racism and Fascist Threat group said. On Monday, the Foreign Ministry said Greek embassies and consular buildings had been ordered to step up security after a threatening phone call to the Greek Consulate in Los Angeles on October 13. The unidentified caller said there would be attacks against Greek diplomatic personnel and buildings unless the Iranians’ demand for asylum in Greece were satisfied, the ministry said. The Iranians began their peaceful protest in September by camping out in the courtyard of the Athens University building in the city center, a site traditionally associated with rights demonstrations. There are 44 refugees currently demonstrating, 25 of whom have been on hunger strike since October 14, the leftist group said. Seven, including a young female journalist, have sewn their mouths shut to underscore their plight. «Our closed lips are a response to the silence of the Greek government about our asylum,» the campaign group said. Six Iranians carried out a similar protest over the summer, until Greek authorities agreed to grant them asylum. At the time, the local representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that «shortcomings» in Greece’s asylum procedure – including the absence of an appeals committee abolished a year ago – have led to the accumulation of over 46,000 pending requests. In recent years, Greece has had one of Europe’s lowest asylum approval rates, with only 0.9 percent of applications accepted. (AFP)