The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

Hunger Strike Continues

For just over a month, 300 people have been on a hunger strike, a protest against the way they have been treated and continue to be treated in Greece. Most of them have lived and worked here for years but have been denied papers to allow them to live here as citizens. The government (and many,many citizens here) are demanding that immigrants leave voluntarily or are repatriated or deported. A grim choice for those who have worked hard here and contributed to the country in many ways. Going on a hunger strike is a desperate act; one that is impossible for most of us to imagine undertaking. Surely no-one can ignore their plea ? The latest reports on the hunger strikers is dire. Many have been hospitalised and some are close to dying. Are we really going to ignore their plea ?

The article that follows is from the Guardian Comment is Free and was written by Costas Douzinas who is a Law Professor at Birkbeck, University of London.  His books include “The End of Human Rights” and “Human Rights and Empire”.

As the world follows the north African revolutions with bated breath, a less public north African revolt and tragedy is taking place in Athens and Thessaloniki. Three hundred non-documented migrants, mostly from the Maghreb, have entered the 35th day of a hunger strike. Many have been taken to hospital in pre-comatose condition and are reaching a state of non-reversible organ failure and subsequent death.

These are people who have lived and worked in Greece for up to seven years. They picked olives and oranges, they looked after the old and the sick, they worked on building sites and orchards for a fraction of the minimum wage. After years of exploitation and humiliation, they are now told they are no longer wanted because of the economic crisis. They must go back voluntarily or be deported. Immigrants are the double victims of boom and bust in Greece. Now they are deemed to be surplus to requirements, to be disposed of like refuse.

Please read the full article at the Guardian


  1. Soula
    March 2, 2011    

    Surely you are not suggesting that simply because they lived here for a long time they are entitled to citizenship? And anyway how can we determine if they were here one day one week, one year or 5?

    if they are illegal aliens then they took the risk that they would not be granted the right to become citizens.

  2. Dean Marney
    March 2, 2011    

    If these people were allowed to go to their chosen European destination i.e. Britain or Germany then they wouldn’t feel the need to hunger strike in Greece. It’s the Dublin Agreement which is forcing them to stay in a place which they don’t want to be in – the hunger strikes should really be against this racist draconian law rather than the poor bankrupt nation of Greece (which hasn’t got a hope in hell to grant citizenship, house, feed and clothe these people).

    Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama should be sending aircraft and coaches to Greece to bring these people to the UK and US, after all, our countries’ foreign policy is mainly responsible for making these people refugees in the first place…bombing, invading and propping up hated dictators in their countries..

  3. celia jones
    March 2, 2011    

    So are you suggesting that the Greek government should let them die, Soula ? Because they took the risk of travelling to a European country that they thought would treat them at least with dignity and respect? Are you suggesting that being without papers means you have no rights? Are you suggesting, by calling them illegal aliens, that their lives don’t really matter. They are not asking for citizenship. They are asking for permits to stay and work.

    I agree with you Dean, the Dublin Agreement needs to go but Greece still has SOME responsibility. I don’t think anyone has said Greece should deal with this alone. I believe funds have been given to help and the rest of Europe should do much much more but as DD said ” surely, we’re not going to just let them die?”

  4. Dean Marney
    March 2, 2011    

    “surely, we’re not going to just let them die”

    No, of course we shouldn’t let them die, we should allow them to travel to a European country of their choice, a country which can house, feed and clothe them and when they are better, they can get find employment in this country which is chock full of employment opportunities. Greece can’t offer any of these things.
    Why do people constantly demand things from a country which simply can’t cope with these demands? Even if Greece grants “papers” to these people, do you really think there are jobs, housing, health services and education facilities in a bankrupt nation to offer these ‘new citizens’? You’re all living in a dream world….

  5. Soula
    March 3, 2011    

    I am suggesting that they should not die, and eat and drink, its their choice to be on a hunger strike.

    Nobody is forcing them to NOT eat and NOT drink..

    So Celia should the new criteria be, act suicidal and get what ever you demand?

    They are in fact illegal aliens.. they are not political asylum seekers and are economic migrants only who came in without following the law…so that makes them in fact illegal aliens as opposed to legal aliens.

    Greece has no responsibility to illegal economic migrants esp. in this economic crisis…hello is anyone paying attention.

    I am suggesting that they should care about their lives first and foremost…

    permits to stay and work….what jobs dear? if there were jobs they would be working illegaly right now…they have no jobs and no one has jobs to give them.

    If they die, it is in fact their choice by not eating food…its not the Greek governments fault. They are not entitled to permits to stay and such an action would just encourage more behavior like this..

    In fact I think they should be given food against their will and summarily deported.

  6. mark k
    March 3, 2011    

    Force fed and deported! Now, there’s some compassion for you. Wow! I’m glad I’m not an immigrant in Greece right now.

  7. celia jones
    March 3, 2011    

    Two different things, Dean. They are not able to travel to another european country under the Dublin Agreement, which I AGREED with you, should go! So what do we do in the meantime? Basically nothing, which adds up to letting them die.

  8. Dean Marney
    March 3, 2011    

    Where are you from Mark?

    I bet i wouldn’t want to be an immigrant in your country either. Mexican immigrants summarily executed by American border patrol or UK immigration centres abusing detainees.

    Take your pick Mr Mark-holier-than-thou…

  9. mark k
    March 3, 2011    

    The Netherlands but I’m sure you’ll find awful things about my country too. It was just a comment out of sympathy for the hunger-striking immigrants. Where are you from, Mark ? Why are you so defensive about Greece ? Just wondering… not a criticism.

  10. Dean Marney
    March 3, 2011    

    I’m just making sure that no-one is throwing stones in glass houses…

    The country which spawned geert wilders (who is gaining popularity) and is pushing to ban the bourqa has it’s own human rights abuses to worry about …..

  11. Dean Marney
    March 3, 2011    

    Celia, i offered a solution, David Cameron and Obama should say to these people:

    “I’m sorry we bombed and invaded your country, i’m sorry we propped up an evil dictator for decades for the purposes of cheap petroleum, we would like to make it up to you by inviting you to our beautifully rich countries so that you can live with the basic human rights which we helped deny you for so many years. We’re sending a Jumbo 747 which conveniently has 300 seats to bring you all to America or USA i.e. to a country of YOUR CHOICE and a country which can easily house, clothe and feed you”.

    They would abandon their hunger strike and would be munching on an in-flight meal in no time.

    But no, we expect a poor bankrupt nation which has a dire economic forecast for the forseeable future to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants so that they can be a further burden to an already broken nation.

  12. celia jones
    March 4, 2011    

    just a small but significant point, Dean… they are asking for residency papers not citizenship. From what I’ve read many of them have been working for years in Greece and trying, unsuccessfully, to get papers. This is because, Greece grants very few people legal status and those that do get it have usually spent years in the process. I know this from the experience of a friend of mine who went to Greece when he was two (His parents were both there legally) but when he turned 18 he found out that he had no right to stay. Despite, knowing no other country, it took him two years to get his papers.

    I know Greece is burdened with the recent financial crisis but this has been going on for many years before it happened. I think that should be factored into the discussion.

  13. tass55
    March 4, 2011    

    To Dean Marney and some others… You don’t know about my country and the way it abuse immigrants. Greece is having the crisis now but before people were doing very well and making a lot of money. It is a mistake to think about Greece as a “poor” or “bankrupt” country. It wasn’t until recently. And most of the financial mistakes were made by us.

  14. Soula
    March 4, 2011    

    Celia …now you are purposely confusing things..

    your comparing these people who came here illegally with people who cam here legally.

    Even those that came legally knew there was no path to citizenship or that there was no agreement that their kids could become Greek citizens or get permits.

    In any case, we have no way of knowing how long these people were here anyway
    number two, should a nations policy be dictated by a hunger strike? I think no.
    I am sure life in their nations suck to be quite blatant..but they came here illegally and yes they were exploited all that means is that their employer should be fined or get some punishment …not that Greek society as a whole has to embrace them and offer them housing, jobs, etc.

    We technically have a social system..but its defective even for the native needs now you want us to take anything that washes on our shores too.

    Sorry I do not want Greece to become Greeceistan.

    They are human beings, we all are, but jsut because they are human beings does not mean we owe them every thing they want or need there are limits.

    We are full up and have problems with our own childrens future and needs..

    If you are wealthy and charitable be my guest take them in your house and feed them.

  15. pj
    March 4, 2011    

    Just for the sake of a little clarity in this discussion, it is worth pointing out that (as the article states) the hunger-strikers are mostly from North Africa (i.e. not countries that have been bombed or invaded by Britain or the U.S.) have been in Greece for a number of years (i.e. well before Dublin II came into effect), and want to stay in Greece (i.e. Greece is the country of their choice).

  16. Dean Marney
    March 4, 2011    

    Ok, let’s forget the financial crisis for a minute.

    Greece is the poorest EU country and has been for years – it is burdened with 130,000 immigrants per year coming into it’s borders. This is equivalent to ONE MILLION people coming into my country the UK.
    If this many people were coming into the UK to claim asylum, the British government would not be granting them residency or citizenship. They would be sending them back (after a long stay in detention centres). The British government is threatening to put a limit on how many Polish people are coming to the UK and they’re from the EU! Imagine if they had to deal with ONE MILLION Iranian, Afghan, Pakistani, Iraqi, Egyptian, Libyan immigrants coming into the UK a year.
    Whle we criticise and condemn Greece for “abusing immigrants”, we in Western Europe and the US should look at our own record of abusing not only immigrants in our countries, but abusing people all over the world with our reckless foreign policy which makes people want to emigrate from their countries in the first place.

    It is totally naive to expect a poor European nation to deal with 130,000 immigrants a year, to grant them residency, to provide jobs, education, medical services, accomodation, when there is absolutely NO CHANCE that we in the West would cope with that number of people.

    Greece is struggling and has been for years, there is absolutely no chance that they can support these people in the future and they will inevitably face a social backlash as well. It’s a ticking time bomb…for Brits reading this, just stop and think for a minute: ONE MILLION PEOPLE A YEAR ..
    For Americans, the equivalent to THREE MILLION people PER YEAR. Three million Iranians, Afghans, Libyans etc. Yeah, i can see the American govt granting residency to these people. It would NEVER happen. LET’S NOT BE HYPOCRITES.

  17. Bertan Ibrahim
    March 4, 2011    

    I’m a Kurdish and want to say Daen Marney is correct. The Americans and Britsh pritend they are human rights but they bomb and kill people every day and cos people to fled out from there countrys. I know many Greeks and they always treat me with respect in the restaurant im working but the English customers are drunk and racist. The English pritend to be your friend but the truth is that i’m just bloddy foreigner to them. It always comes out in the end. At the end of the day, we’re all bloddy foreigners to them and the racism is still alive in the UK never mind what the government pritends.

  18. Dean Marney
    March 4, 2011    

    “the hunger-strikers are mostly from North Africa (i.e. not countries that have been bombed or invaded by Britain or the U.S.)”

    Just for the sake of clarity:

    Egypt – Pro-American dictator Hosni Mubarak financed by the American government for over 30 years, receives military aid paid by American tax-payer, second only to Israel in military and political assistance.

    Libya – One time enemy and now pro-American dictator Muamar Gaddafi, bombs his own people with US and British-made and financed weaponry. Was “brought in from the cold” by former British Prime Minister Blair after promising to sell us oil for a pittance. He owes his existence and power to our financial and political support.

    Algeria – When the Algerians held their first democratic elections in 1991, Clinton’s administration stepped-in to declare the elections null and void after the Islamic party won. Military rule was established thereafter which led to the Algerian Civil War and 160,000 deaths, many of them civilian. Following a wave of protests in the wake of popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, Algeria has officially lifted its 19-year-old state of emergency on February 24th, 2011, in an effort to avoid similar revolutions.. but the people tsunami is coming…and frontline countries such as Greece and Spain will be the beneficiary of the refugees, no doubt.

    Tunisia – Dictator President Ben Ali, a military figure, installed as ‘leader’ in 1987, about the same time as vast oil deposits was discovered by British and French sub-contractors in El Bourma. TheTunisian people revoilted against the Anglo-Gallic friendly puppet government in 2011 and finally took control of their own country.

    We’ve been installing puppet governments for years in North Africa. let’s not even mention Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Jordan and the rest of the middle east which is basically a powder keg waiting to explode because of our support of dictators who’ve been killing and repressing their own people since the sixties. We are directly and indirectly responsible for the mass migration of political and economic refugees because of our reckless foreign policy since the 60s…and we expect frontline countries like Greece and Spain to pick up the pieces…we should be ashamed of ourselves.

  19. pj
    March 4, 2011    

    @ Dean Marney

    Ha! Well, yes, if you’re going to broaden your terms to that extent, then you can blame every ill on the planet on the US and Britain. My point, though, was that in this thread we are talking about economic migrants rather than asylum seekers, and the dispute is over social security payments and residence status, so none of what you are saying, whether or not one agrees with it or not, actually applies here.

    Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant, though, will you. 😉

  20. Dean Marney
    March 5, 2011    

    “if you’re going to broaden your terms to that extent, then you can blame every ill on the planet on the US and Britain.”

    As a photographer, i lke to broaden my field of view to ensure i’ve captured the “bigger picture” in all it’s context, otherwise i risk giving a blinkered and narrow representation of reality 😉

    But don’t let reality get in the way of a blinkered viewpoint.

  21. gurmit
    March 7, 2011    

    Hi DD,

    I’ve come to your blog after a long time and hope your mom has a great recovery. I’m glad she got the surgery she needed.


  22. Jeremy Walcott
    March 10, 2011    

    I share Dean’s view, our western democratic goverments have been supporting totalitatrian regimes for decades for our own greedy economic interests. When the poor people of these countries decide they’ve had enough and start to revolt or leave their countries, we shouldn’t expect the smaller countries to have to deal with the mess.

  23. Jeremy Walcott
    March 31, 2011    

    What happened to these hunger strikers? Is there any news?

  24. deviousdiva
    March 31, 2011    

    I think they got temporary asylum. I have been out of the loop for a while and I apologise for that. If anyone has any first hand news, could they please let me know?

  25. Dean Marney
    April 1, 2011    

    Hi Deviousdiva,
    Now you’re back in the loop, is there any way you can find out exactly what happened to these people?

  26. Adnan Hamdoun
    April 5, 2011    

    These people are ok, much better, Greek goverment gave them more time to stay and they are happy and eating alot food again. Why does’nt this blog say this good news? Only bad news aloud here?

    Maybe he is out of the loop but this blogger has time to post other news on his blog, so why not the good news? Am wondering why?

  27. deviousdiva
    April 5, 2011    

    Thank you for updating Adnan Hamdoun. If you’ll notice I have posted just one article since the beginning of March. I will not be going into details as to why but this is not some effort to post only bad news. You’ll just have to take my word on that. Thank you