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Belgium: PM demands end to hunger-strikes

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Belgium: PM demands end to hunger-strikes


The Belgian Prime Minister has called on groups of illegal immigrants, who are hunger-striking for work permits, to call off their protest.

Three Iranians occupied a tower-crane opposite the Belgian foreign ministry in Brussels, and a protest backed by trade unions was organised on the ground to show solidarity with the hunger strikers.

They are lending their support to various groups – some of whom have been refusing food and liquid for several weeks – two have been in hospital for more than a week.

One Moroccan protestor said: “These are desperate actions. They want to be legal, and live a dignified life in a country that respects human rights. We are here to support them.”

Among their demands, the hunger-strikers want work permits for illegal immigrants who already have jobs in Belgium. A delegation lobbied Prime Minister Yves Leterme on their behalf.

Leterme said: “I understand the human distress in which these people find themselves. But I have have to say that protesting by refusing food and drink is an unacceptable form of pressure in a democracy – and I appeal to them to call it off.”

The topic could feature on the agenda at Friday’s ministerial meeting.

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