Greece: Government breaks agreement with the ‘300′ hunger strikers

Ministers try to ‘hide’ truth of written agreement

On 9 March, when 300 immigrant workers were on their 44th day of a mass protest hunger strike in Athens and Thessaloniki, an agreement was made between the protesters and the PASOK government, ensuring that the government would meet most of the strikers’ demands regarding the obtaining of legal status in Greece. A written agreement was presented to the strikers’ representative committee by four MPs, on the same day.

The written agreement ensures that the 300 will not be deported but will be put under a ‘state of tolerance’ for 6 months. The government also unofficially promised that this ‘state’ will be further extended, for as long as the immigrants need to fulfil all the requirements for their legalization. Each person’s case will be studied individually.

Furthermore, the agreement ensured that the government will provide the necessary travelling documents for the immigrants to be able to travel to their home countries, should they wish to do so. The immigrants will have the right of ‘full legitimacy’, after the completion of 8 years of residence in Greece. The minimum required time until now has been 12 years and the change to 8 years would affect all immigrants.

At a verbal level, the government committed to reduce the amount of days of social insurance payment required for the immigrants to obtain win legal status, from 200 days per year to 120, as well as giving another chance to all legal immigrants who lost their documents within the last 2 years because of the economic crisis and ensuing unemployment.

Government tries to backtrack

To date (10/03/11), some 24 hours after the ending of the mass hunger strike, the final written agreement has not yet been publicised by the government. Only the strikers’ have made public the agreement. Many of the government’s spokespersons tried to ‘hide’ the written agreement in their statements to the media and almost cancel the agreement itself by not mentioning its real clauses.

For instance, the Minister of the Interior, George Ragousis, claimed that the government has never really pledged to reduce the number of years of residence in the country required for legal status, from 12 to 8 years. He also added that the only one responsible for handling the immigrants’ cases for their legalisation is the police and that there is no question of the government giving a legal status to the immigrants.

It is an absolute disgrace to put the blame on the strikers’ committee for ‘not understanding correctly’ or ‘imagining’ what the government has actually agreed to do previously. And it is even more of a disgrace to give the impression that the hunger strikers actually risked their lives for 44 days just to compromise with a promise of ‘getting in touch’ with the police! Who is the government trying to fool!

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