Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Unmasking of Greece's Policy of Racism and Discrimination Against Macedonians

Source: Rainbow/Vinozhito

A statement issued by the Foreign Ministry of Greece concerning the question of Macedonian political refugees notes inter alia that:
"…as we have previously announced, yesterday marked the start of the implementation of the humanitarian measure of issuing permits to visit Greece to political refugees in FYROM, and everything is proceeding smoothly and without a hitch. This permit is for those political refugees who were excluded by the 1982 law 'concerning the return of political refugees' and is valid for twenty (20) days during the period of 10 August to 30 October 2003.
The only thing that was asked of the prospective visitors to Greece, political refugees, residents and citizens of FYROM, was that they use the new travel documents of their countries - that is, the new series of FYROM passports and, naturally, that they have the necessary entry visas.”

According to previous memos and statements made by Foreign Ministry officials (statements by Deputy Foreign Minister Loverdos on 8-6-2003 in Sunday's Eleftherotypia newspaper and a notice by Mr. Beglitis on 1-7-2003), free entry to Greece should have been permitted to all political refugees during the aforementioned period.

Unfortunately, this "humanitarian measure” turned into a farce. Once again, the large majority of Macedonian political refugees were denied entry into Greece even for a simple visit. On 10 August 2003 a delegation from Rainbow was present at the Niki - Negochani border station in Florina - Lerin. No political refugee was permitted to enter Greece (of more than 20 individuals appearing between 11.00 and 13.00) whose travel document recorded the bearer's place of birth with its former (Macedonian) name. Entry into Greece was forbidden to those Macedonian political refugees with Republic of Macedonia passports, as well as to those with passports from other countries, such as Australia, Czech Republic, and Hungary. The border officials did not note on the forms the actual reason why entry was denied (this, they explained to us orally), but instead cited other reasons.

The absurdity of the matter of Macedonian political refugees holding travel documents (passports) from the Republic of Macedonia is that Greece does not recognize these passports because they record the name of country as the "Republic of Macedonia.” Yet it asks the Macedonian refugees holding these passports to change the name of their birthplace in a passport that Greece doesn't recognize. For this reason, following the interim agreement between the two countries in 1995, the travel document that Greece recognizes is not the passport, but rather a sheet of white A4 paper bearing the visa. Perhaps our country ought to change its stand and finally accept Republic of Macedonia as the name of our neighboring country?

As for the Macedonian refugees from other European countries that have signed accession agreements with the EU (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia), how will Greece explain such a refusal of entry to these governments? How will it behave in April 2004 when these countries become full EU member-states? How will it then explain the refusal of entry to equal and law-abiding European citizens, who have the right to enter Greece simply by presenting their personal identity cards? Will Greece then blacklist these citizens as persona non grata?

Perhaps the Greek government and the Greek Foreign Ministry can explain - if the reason for barring entry into our country is, indeed, the use of place names, which are aspects of the linguistic and cultural heritage of both Greece and Europe - why the use of these names should to be a reason to bar entry? Can it provide us with an example of another European country that has barred entry to its former citizens for the same reason?

Since Macedonian place names of villages and towns are used in official Greek documents, such as topographical surveys and military maps of the Ministry of Defense, why are they unacceptable when are used by the country's former citizens?

Perhaps the Greek government can explain why, at the dawn of the 21st century, it has not repealed the racist phrase in Law 1266/1982, which reads: "…may return to Greece all Greeks by genus* (emphasis ours) who left Greece during the Civil War of 1946-1949 and because of which went abroad as political refugees, even if they have lost their Greek citizenship…”
(*The word genus is synonymous with the word race and was deliberately used to discriminate against Macedonian political refuges on the basis of their ethnicity.)

The issue of Macedonian political refugees of the Greek Civil War is one aspect of the Macedonian minority issue in Greece. Other aspects include linguistic rights and the right to use Macedonian place names. We therefore call upon the Greek government to move forward on a settlement concerning Macedonian political refugees and finally grant them all, unconditionally and without exception not only the right to visit Greece - after fifty-plus years - but also the right to return. In so doing, the Greece would implement the law as it now applies to other ethnic Greek political refugees.

Today, civilized countries and democratic governments do not just respect and promote the rights of their linguistic, cultural, and ethnic minorities; they also are courageous enough to recognize their past mistakes and rectify injustices. We expect the same of our own government: that it revise its positions on the rights of the Macedonian minority of Greece.