Hunger Strikes

Short history of hunger strikes by refugees and migrants in Greece within 2010 and 2011:


19th September –
22nd October 2009:
After a number of revolts inside the detention centre Pagani on Lesvos island, the prison was finally officially closed and the last refugees left to Athens. Huge numbers of refugees had been imprisoned in the overcrowded prison all over the summer, leading to repeated uprisings. The refugees demanded freedom through hunger strikes, broke the doors of the cells and put the cells on fire. The revolts gained a lot of public attention and media coverage through the noborder action Lesvos 2009.


3rd February: Refugees detained in Venna put fire on their clothes and mattresses to protest against their prolonged imprisonment and the inhuman detention conditions. Only three days later 42 of them were judged penalties of 4-6 months detention and following deportation without having any access to lawyers and interpreters. Then they were transferred to other prisons in order to isolate them.

13th March: In the night of 13th March 2010, 35 detainees set the detention centre of the police station of Patras on fire to protest against their detention and the detention conditions.

14th of April: 8 migrants from Pakistan start hunger strike inside the prison of the Aigaleo police station in Athens to protest against maltreatment during detention. The police officers do not allow them to use the toilette or wash themselves.

13th–17th April: 124 detained refugees started a hunger strike in the detention centre of Samos protesting against the transfer of 60 refugees from Samos detention centre to a prison close to the Bulgarian border and to protest against their deportation.

20th July: Beginning of the hunger strike of Iranian refugees in front of the UNHCR offices Athens. At the 31st August the eight refugees were granted political asylum on their 38th day of hunger strike (some were on their 15th day).

22nd September: 100 Palestinian refugees started a protest and hunger strike in front of the Greek section of the UNHCR in Athens. They demanded asylum and housing from the Greek government (the protest is going on).

6th October: Two Iranian refugees who were detained in Evros, around 25 to 30 years old, stitched their mouths using fibbers from their shoe-laces as an act of protest against deportation and for the right to political asylum. They were transferred to Alexandroupolis hospital at the 7th of November because of their worsening health condition but they denied medical treatment. Their protest reached the public through the statements of the director of the hospital who was anxious about their health condition.

14th of October: Hunger strike of 49 protesters, eight of which sewed their lips together with medical threads. They protested in a makeshift tent in front of Athens University (Propylaia). Among the hunger strikers, were refugees whose first instance interviews were delaying for more than a year, while others’ cases were pending at second instance for several years. They protested 77 days and kept 36 days of hunger strike. Finally, they were granted political asylum at November 18th.

28th October: Complaint by the International Federation of Iranian Refugees lodged with the European Court of Human Rights against the Greek government for its violation of refugees’ rights.

26th-29th October: Hunger strike of 25 Kurds and 13 Afghan refugees in Lavrio reception centre demanding for asylum. Most of the refugees living in the oldest reception centre of Greece have been waiting since years for their asylum claims to be proceeded. The protest included the demands of the total of the reception centres’ population for better reception conditions.

9th November: An Iranian refugee threatened to commit suicide inside the Greek council of Refugees in Athens demanding to talk to journalists.

19th November: 100 Afghan refugees, among them families and a forty day old baby, started a protest in front of Athens University (Propylaia) setting up tents and sleeping there. At the 29th of December 5 of them started a hunger strike to increase the pressure on the government. Their asylum cases are pending since years. The following days another 4 Afghans joined the hunger strike, among them also one women. All of them stitched their lips. The protesters were repeatedly harassed by municipal police and attacked by fascist groups. During their protests in front of the Ministries one of the hunger strikers was arrested. In the beginning of March 2011 the government finally started calling them in on priority for the examination of their asylum cases. 43 of the remaining 97 refugees have passed through their interviews and are still waiting for the answers. When the interviews started, the Afghans stopped the hunger strike. They remained at the university campus though and continued their protest until the 10th of August when they declared the successful end of their struggle. Most of them have been going through their asylum interviews with a majority receiving either the status of a political refugee, subsidiary or humanitarian protection.

22nd November: 14 migrants started a hunger strike in the prison of the police station of Chania, Crete and demand for freedom.

22nd November: Four Iranian refugees sewed their lips and started a hunger strike in the detention facility of Feres, Evros.

23rd November: The four strikers from Feres are transferred to Soufli in a special “disciplinary cell”. They continue they hunger strike.

25th November: Four sans papiers immigrant prisoners from Palestine sewed their lips together with needle and thread at the Kassaveteia Prisons near Volos, central Greece, protesting their prolonged and completely unjustified imprisonment, while another three refused their meals. In the last fourteen months, all seven of them, together with another 25 Somalis, Afghanis and Palestinians, have been pushed from one prison to another, after they were arrested for the sole crime of illegally entering the country. Their release is pending while the deportation is also being legally processed.


25th January: 300 migrants from arabic countries, mainly Morocco start a hunger strike to fight for all migrants rights on residence and work permits, for the right on free movement and the right to stay. The kept up the hunger strike for 44 days in Athens and Thessaloniki and achieved by their massive protest to receive a prototypical acceptance status with the option to be legalised after fulfilling the minimum of years needed in order to be legalised in Greece. This minimum is currently fixed at 12 years, but the government is discussing the option of decreasing it to 8 years. Additionally, they were promised to receive an exceptional permit to travel to their home countries and return and work permits. They succeeded also in improving basic rights for all migrants while the government promised to minimise and thus improve the preconditions for renewing residence permits of migrants, such as the needed number social insurance stamp.

9th April: 29 women start a hunger strike in Ferres detention centre to protest against the long detention period (most of them are already more than 3 months in prison), against the wrong registration during the screening (most of the black Africans have been registered wrongly as Nigerians and are thus in danger to be deported) and against the detention conditions.

28th April: 12 refugees start a hunger strike inside the detention centre of the border guard station Soufli in Evros to protest against the detention conditions and demanding freedom. Among them a 6 asylum seekers; some detained for more than 5 months. The strikers are from Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Nigeria and Syria.

There were/are many more protests. It is impossible to tell about all of them.
And there are many more that will follow…

The infomobile

... is like a “paper boat”. We chose this as a metaphor for what we want to create and for the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece. The paper boat is a folded boat able to swim – for a while. Then you have to build a new one to go on travelling. A paper boat is symbolic for the journey of life, vulnerable but in your own hands and to be recreated again and again. It is simple, but it carries many hopes and dreams. It can dance on a turbulent sea. It belongs to everybody. And it might become the small version – like a first draft – of a welcome-space.

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