Toronto, Canada and Melbourne, Australia (April 30, 2010) - The Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee (AMHRC) and Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) are issuing this statement in order to answer some questions that have arisen as a result of what appears to be a misinformation campaign orchestrated by Greek sources. It has been alleged that the Greek government has made a decision to return citizenship to Macedonian exiles who originate from Greece.
These false reports stemmed from an exchange of letters between the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Thomas Hammarberg and Greece's Deputy Minister of Interior, Decentralization and e-Governance, Ms Theodora Tzakri.
Following his 2009 visit to Greece, Mr Hammarberg wrote to Greek authorities asking:
Moreover, I would welcome further information on the restoration of Greek nationality for those persons who lost it on the basis of former Article 19 of the Greek Nationality Code. As mentioned in our meeting, these include stateless persons living in Greece and abroad. I would be grateful for any updated information you could provide on the number of former Greek citizens presently living as stateless persons in Greece and abroad, the extent to which they have been able to have their citizenship restored and any measures envisaged to facilitate the process of restoration of their Greek nationality.
In a response dated 13 April 2010, Ms Tzakri replied to Mr Hammarberg and wrote:
Finally, in regards to Article 19 of the Greek Nationality Code it has ceased to exist. Based upon the new legislation of the Greek Nationality Code persons who lost their citizenship are entitled to reapply in order to restore their Greek citizenship. Currently the Greek Government is in the process of evaluating a number of applicants who based on former Article 19 lost their Greek Nationality. Therefore to this extent the Greek Government has also been working to the direction of facilitating the process of persons wishing to reapply for citizenship based on the former Article 19.
A scanned copy of the letter sent by Ms Tzakri to Mr Hammarberg can be found here:
In relation to the above mentioned letter, it needs to be emphasised that Macedonians did not lose their citizenship on the basis of the former Article 19. The majority of victims of this former Article were ethnic Turks from Western Thrace. In any case, Tzakri's letter to the Human Rights Commissioner made a general point about facilitation and has no commitment by the Greek government to actually restore citizenship. The letter also fails to mention that the new Greek citizenship law has a 'public security' clause, which could further complicate matters for this category of people. Finally, the new law specifies that refugees may have an application for citizenship considered if they lawfully reside in Greece and of course Macedonian exiles (especially those who are prevented from returning to their place of birth because of Greece's discriminatory 1982 laws which only permit the return of individuals that are ethnic Greeks) do not fulfill this requirement.
The AMHRC and MHRMI believe that the spreading of the misinformation is a deliberate attempt to dissuade Macedonians from taking action to restore their citizenship and property rights by giving them a false hope that the matter will soon be resolved by the Greek state. It is regrettable that these reports were naively 'applauded' by certain individuals and reported by some media outlets which failed to check their accuracy.
As was announced on 23 April 2010, AMHRC/MHRMI, in cooperation with the Association of the Refugee Children from Aegean Macedonia of Melbourne and Victoria, the Association of Refugee Children from Aegean Macedonia (ARCAM) in Canada and Macedonian refugee associations in the Republic of Macedonia have decided to launch a campaign for legal action against the Greek state to restore citizenship and property rights to Macedonians from Greece. All these organisations appeal once more to Macedonians from Greece who lost their citizenship to join this important action.
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Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) has been active on human and national rights issues for Macedonians and other oppressed peoples since 1986. For more information, please visit www.mhrmi.org, or contact MHRMI at 416-850-7125, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Established in 1984 the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee (AMHRC) is a non governmental organisation that informs and advocates to governments, international institutions and broader communities about combating discrimination and promoting basic human rights. Our aspiration is to ensure that Macedonian communities and other excluded groups throughout the world are recognised, respected and afforded equitable treatment. For more information please visit www.macedonianhr.org.au, or contact AMHRC at email@example.com or via +61 3 93298960.