ATHENS, Greece — A group of Iranian asylum seekers have sewn their lips shut with medical threads during a hunger strike to press the Greek government to accept their applications for refugee status, protest organizers said Monday.
The 25 protesters camped in a makeshift tent in central Athens, started their fast Thursday. Seven of them have also sewn their mouths shut — in a demonstration of defiance against Greek authorities which face growing international pressure to accept more asylum claims.
Last week, the United Nations' refugee agency bluntly criticized Greek authorities for neglecting legitimate claims and expressed concern over a severe deterioration in conditions at detention facilities for illegal migrants at the Greek-Turkish border.
The government has promised to overhaul asylum procedure but says it is overwhelmed by the influx of illegal immigrants crossing into the European Union from Turkey.
Protest organizers said Monday that the 25 hunger strikers are being joined by 19 more Iranian asylum seekers at the central Athens protest, all claiming to have been mistreated or harassed by Iranian authorities and remaining in Greece on short-term residence permits.