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Europe

Greek migrants end hunger strike

Nearly 300 illegal migrants from North Africa have ended their hunger strike in Greece after having had their demands met.

Immigrants celebrate as they end their 44 days of hunger strike

Immigrants were given temporary residency permits

Hundreds of illegal migrants in Greece have ended a six-week hunger strike after reaching a compromise with the government.

"The hunger strike ended," said Petros Giotis, spokesman for Hunger Strike 300, a group of activists backing the protesters. "Their key demands have been met...They will leave the building with papers in their hands."

Pressure had been growing on the government in recent weeks, after nearly 100 migrants were hospitalized as their health deteriorated.

A government official said the young men, numbering between 250 and 300, had been given permission to stay in the country for at least six months for humanitarian reasons.

The Socialist government also agreed to give residency permits to those who can prove they have been living in Greece for eight years, as opposed to a current 12-year rule, a key demand for the men to end their hunger strike.

The government had earlier refused to meet the demands of the migrants, fearing that granting them legal status would encourage other refugees to carry out similar protests.

Demanded residence, work permits

Harbor of Chania in Crete

Most of the migrants had worked in Crete

The young men, most of them North Africans who had worked in agriculture on the island of Crete until losing their jobs due to Greece's economic crisis, traveled to Athens and the northern port city of Thessaloniki at the end of January to demand residence and work permits.

Many claim to have suffered discrimination and police harassment while working in Greece for up to a decade.

An estimated half a million illegal immigrants and asylum seekers live in Greece, and the government has been repeatedly criticized for being among the European Union countries that grant the smallest number of asylum pleas.

More than 128,000 migrants - almost 400 a day - entered the country illegally in 2010, according to government figures.

Author: Martin Kuebler (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Michael Lawton

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