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The mayor of Athens urged immigrants to stop the hunger strike

21 February 2011 / 23:02:09  GRReporter
5128 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

The mayor of Athens George Kaminis urged the 237 immigrants in the Ipatiya building to stop the hunger strike that continues 28 days and expressed his concern about their condition.

The immigrants legalization issue was discussed today at a meeting of the municipal council. The Mayor of Athens stated that relevant ministries should assume their responsibilities in the fastest possible way, revise temporary residence permits and register all immigrants in the country.

"Immigrants did not come that far to stop the strike now," replied to the mayor the municipal councilor of the Communist Party Nikos Sofianos, who earlier visited the building where immigrants are housed to express his solidarity.  
His colleague in the municipal council and host of a public television broadcasting George Amiras commented that he didn’t dare think what would happen in Athens if anyone from the starving immigrants lost his life and urged the mayor to stop calling and start acting. "You can make outdoor markets where immigrants will be able to sell their goods using cash registers," said the journalist and emphasized how important it is to know the total number of immigrants.
One of the sick immigrants, accompanied by Abdul Haji – a member of the forum of immigrants in Crete – urged Athens’s municipal councilors to follow the example of their colleagues from Thessaloniki and other municipalities in Attica and to issue a manifesto in support of the immigrants’just demands for legalization.

While the debates between the municipal councilors flared up around 30 immigrants from Iran and Afghanistan had gathered outside the Town Hall and with slogans in their hands expressed their demand for asylum.

Earlier, at least 20 municipal and district councilors expressed their solidarity with with the immigrants at a press conference in the Ipatiya building. All stressed that the government should meet their demand for legalization without any delay.  

Eleni Portaliou from SYRIZA, a former candidate for Athens’ mayor, suggested a committee with representatives of local government to be formed and to visit the Interior Minister Yannis Ragousis to exert pressure on him in favour of the immigrants on strike.

The representative of the immigrants Abdul Haji said that the condition of two strikers had got worse late last night and they had to be taken to hospital. "We called the emergency and they told us that they had no ambulances. We waited for them half an hour. The boys who had heart problems stayed in beds wrapped in blankets and we had to take them by cars because there was no ambulance coming."

When the ambulance arrived the immigrants were in the hospital already. "This is unacceptable. We call the ambulance to come as quickly as possible each time when one of the strikers needs be taken to hospital, not after he dies."   
Although activists requested prompt assistance from the emergency, "it is not working well, unfortunately. I called from my mobile phone. Nobody picked up the phone for about five minutes," said Abdul Haji.

At the same time, the results of the poll held in the Greek universities show that most students have positive attitude towards the immigrants and believe that the society should accept them and take care for them.

The survey was completed in early January and its aim was to find out what the attitude of Greek society to weaker social groups is. 548 students from seven universities and colleges in Athens, Thessaloniki, Ioannina and several smaller towns in north-western Greece answered the questions.  

Half of the respondents believe that immigrants should have equal rights with the citizens of the host country. 76.2% of respondents state that society should care for all its members, regardless of their origin. 79.7% recognize that immigrants face social racism and 68.4% believe that they live in the margins of society. 74.9 percent disagree with the view that a country has no obligations to the immigrants who live in it.
34.9% of the students do not believe that immigrants are to blame for the increase in crime, while 28.1% believe it's true. Quite a number have a neutral opinion on this issue - they are 36.9% of the respondents.

Interesting is the fact that 49.1% of the students deny immigrants are to blame for rising unemployment among nationals and only 20.1% think so.

The overall poll results show that women have more positive attitude towards immigrants than men as well as students of social sciences, and students whose fathers are scientists, businessmen or farmers than those whose fathers are workers or craftsmen. Furthermore, the more left-wing are the students’ beliefs the more tolerant to immigrants they are, except those who belong to the extreme left.


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