2 arrested in Athens over hunger strike

AP News
Posted: Mar 08, 2011 12:45 PM
2 arrested in Athens over hunger strike

Greek authorities arrested two women on Tuesday following claims they prevented hospital staff giving food to immigrants who have been on hunger strike for more than 40 days in a bid to gain residence permits.

A group supporting the nearly 300 hunger strikers said the two were affiliated with the support network and were accompanying the immigrants to hospital.

About 240 North African immigrants in Athens, and another 50 in the northern city of Thessaloniki, are on the 43rd day of a hunger strike. Of those, 83 have been hospitalized in the capital and another 18 in Thessaloniki.

The support group said in a statement on its website that the arrests came after the head of the hospital's pathology clinic had ordered "food to be left on the side tables of the hospitalized strikers, the refusal of the hunger strikes to accept it and the reminder of the solidarity members that such forms of 'medical' practices constitute torture."

Police said the two women were arrested following allegations by a doctor at the hospital that they had prevented staff from providing food.

The government has refused to grant the migrants' demands, saying they entered Greece illegally and granting them legal status would encourage others to follow suit with similar protests. Strikers counter that they have worked for up to ten years in the country, suffered discrimination and police harassment, and are willing to risk their lives for legal papers.

Greece is the busiest transit point for illegal migrants in the European Union, with tens of thousands entering the country each year. About 128,000 entered the country of 10.7 million in 2010 and the government, already dealing with a major financial crisis, has said authorities cannot cope.