The 287 immigrant workers in Athens and Salonica ended their 44-day hunger strike last Wednesday evening with jubilations.
The immigrant workers, most of them of northern African origin, accepted a set of government proposals on temporary stay, no deportations and an eight-year waiting period (down from 12 years) for full labour rights and ‘legalisation’ (residence permits).
In the last few days over 120 hunger strikers had been taken to hospitals in a critical condition.
The ministry’s offer gives the migrants a six-month ‘grace’ period to remain in Greece during which time there will be no deportations; this can be renewed every six months.
It also allows them to continue working in Greece and to return to their homelands on humanitarian grounds without fear of being barred from re-entering the country.
Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis also agreed to change the law on giving legal status to immigrants who have been living in Greece.
Currently, the law demands that migrants prove they have been in Greece for at least 12 years before they can receive ‘legalisation’. The Minister’s proposals reduces this period to eight years but Ragousis did not commit himself to when the change will take place.
Ragousis also agreed to a reduction in the number of social security ‘stamps’ needed to renew residence permits. Those with one-year permits will need ‘stamps’ for 120 days of work rather than 200. Those who have two-year permits must get 240 ‘stamps’ instead of 400.
A statement by the Solidarity Initiative to the 300 migrants on hunger strike hailed the government’s decision, saying it ‘showed to all the working people that the government of the EU, IMF and European Bank Memorandum is not invincible. The rigid militant spirit and broad social solidarity can bring tangible results.’