About 150 Syrian civil war refugees have begun a hunger strike in front of Greece's Parliament, urging the government to grant them temporary working and residence rights.

The hunger strike started Monday, after protesters began gathering last week at Athens' main Syntagma Square, complaining that refugees are being forced to pay exorbitant black-market rates to live in squalid apartments in Athens.

The hunger strikers said they were only eating sugar. Several dozen of them sat on the sidewalk with strips of box tape covering their mouths.

Greece is a busy entry point for immigrants and refugees seeking entry to the European Union. The financial crisis-hit country has seen a spike in the number of Syrians crossing by boat illegally from nearby Turkey.