The Facebook page for the hunger strikers is here and includes a petition to sign.
Via the Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece: Iranian refugees in Athens have launched a hunger strike to demand that Greek authorities process their asylum applications, following what they say has been nine years of delay.
Rights activists say the protest highlights deficiencies in Greece’s system of granting asylum to refugees — with only about 0.04 percent of all applications being accepted every year.
Two of the five hunger strikers outside the United Nations refugee agency’s offices have refused to eat for a month.
They said Thursday they have been waiting for up to nine years for an answer to their applications.
Statement by the UNHCR
Semko Mohammadi, a member of the Union of Migrant Workers in Greece, says “they have lost the best years of their life in Greece,” adding that the men faced persecution if they returned home.
Two Iranian refugees, whose asylum claims have been pending for years, are on hunger-strike since last Thursday morning (29/7) outside the premises of UNHCR Greece. In relation to this, the Head of the Office, Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, made the following statement:
“The despair of the Iranian hunger-strikers stems from the lasting problems of the asylum system in Greece, which violates the principles for a fair, efficient and effective examination of asylum applications. Their claim for a final decision about the status of political refugee is absolutely fair. It should be noted that more than 45,000 persons have been waiting for years their cases to be examined at second (and final) instance. The appeal committees, that had been operating, even in a limited way, until the fist semester of 2009, were abolished by the P.D. 81/2009. This led UNHCR to decide not to participate in the asylum procedure and criticize the relevant legislation. Today, we await the adoption of a new P.D. that, inter alia, will re-establish the appeal committees, with a view to examine all pending cases. Our Agency, which participated in the preparation of the new legislation, is trying to have the P.D. adopted before summer and for the committees to be able to start work in autumn. In addition, the new law which will transfer the asylum responsibility from the police to a civil Asylum Service should be voted by the Parliament as soon as possible.
Despite UNHCR efforts, the initiative for the adoption and implementation of these legislative changes is with the Greek State. Therefore, it would be irresponsible if we “promised” to the hunger-strikers but also to other asylum-seekers that hold a “pink card” when the appeal committees would start working again.
We have explained all the above in detail to the hunger strikers, as well as to their partners that stand by them, during repeated meetings that UNHCR staff and me personally had with them in the last two weeks. We also explained to them that we cannot help them at this stage, since there are no committees to examine their claims. The anticipated participation of UNHCR in the committees that will be created will constitute a guarantee for a more fair examination of the asylum claims. We understand fully that this explanation does not satisfy the hunger-strikers, since it does not provide an immediate solution to their problem. But this is the reality. A different response would be misleading and raise false expectations.
I would like to stress that we defend the right to a peaceful demonstration, as is the current case. In the meantime, we are in regular contact with the NGO “PRAKSIS” that provides doctors and psychologists to look after the hunger-strikers, because what is most important is the life of those people”.