Belgium stands firm over illegal immigrants' hunger strike
The Belgian immigration ministry on Tuesday said it would not give into demands by illegal immigrants who are on hunger strike, despite doctors' concerns about their condition.
However, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Annemie Turtelboom insisted that "there is no other way out than to stop the strike."
"We have about 500 people on hunger strike. If we give in then tomorrow there will be 5,000 and 50,000 the day after," spokesman Rolf Falter told AFP.
About 100 illegal immigrants have been on a hunger strike since February 16 in an underground university parking lot without windows and ventilation.
At another university about 280 other people seeking legal residence have been on hunger strike for 44 days while another 230 people are refusing food at a church in the city centre.
The ruling five-party coalition agreed a new system in March 2008 for granting residency permits based on how involved an applicant is in local life.
However, efforts to get the system working have floundered over what the criteria should be and politicians are not eager to clarify them two months away from regional elections.