Parents lobby for return of students

January 19, 2001

Greece's education ministry has refused to relocate Greek students studying at universities in the former Yugoslav republic who fear they are in danger from depleted uranium shells.

Anxious parents lobbied education secretary Petros Efthymiou to demand that the students be transferred to Greek universities after reports of health hazards from depleted uranium shells used in Nato's bombing campaign against Serbia.

There are more than 1,000 Greek students at Yugoslav universities. Most of them are studying medicine.

At the start of the bombing campaign, most of the students returned home. A demand that they be allowed to continue their studies at Greek universities was rejected.

They returned to Yugoslavia and, although they are not near to areas hit by Nato bombs, their parents are anxious for their return.

According to Mr Efthymiou, the health hazards from the depleted uranium bombs are part of a wider problem and are being dealt with responsibly and sensitively by the government.

He told a delegation of parents that "the nature of the problem demands clear, concerted and coordinated activity, and that is one of the reasons why the education ministry is not prepared to take a quick, special or unilateral initiative".

Parents' representatives were disappointed by the education secretary's response and vowed to continue to put pressure on the government until their demands were met. They will appeal to Greek president Kostis Stephan-opoulos, the president of the Greek parliament, Apostolos Kaklamanis, and politicians from across all sides of the political spectrum.

One anxious parent, speaking on behalf of those present, said: "The government is abandoning our children where they could die, and for this they must assume full responsibility."

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