Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Message from Lerin: Repeal the 1982 Law on Political Refugees

Two days ago in Lerin, with the participation of some 600 Macedonians from the Aegean part of Macedonia (200 of whom were former child-refugees from Greece), the third gathering of the political refugees began.

This was the first time the gathering was organized in Greece thanks to a new policy of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There were no official Greek bodies present, although a number were invited and there were no official representatives from the Republic of Macedonia as well.

As radio Deutsche Welle reports, an appeal was sent to the Greek media to repeal the 1982 law on political refugees which allows repatriation only to those political refugees who are "Greeks by genus." Repealing this law would allow the return of all political refugees, regardless of ethnicity.

"I think resolving these issues has started from the easiest problem - [some limited] freedom of movement with the visiting of birthplaces. Solving the other issues will probably follow later", stated Gjorgi Donevski, executive secretary of the Third Gathering of the Children-Refugees.

The gathering was hosted by the Rainbow Party (Vinozhito), which represents the Macedonian minority in Greece. Rainbow evaluates the gathering in Lerin should not be considered as the third gathering of the refugees. According to Rainbow, the reason for this is that return to Greece was not allowed for all political refugees, especially to former fighters.

Members of the Association of Aegean Macedonians, which has its seat in Bitola, were not present at the gathering in Lerin. According to Donevski, this does not mean there is any dispute among the associations of the Macedonians, but it is the stance of persons who do not want to change their passports in which the names of their birthplaces are written using the old Macedonian name.

"It is their right but I evaluate that it is not correct from their side to accuse us because we have accepted the agreement of the Macedonian and Greek Governments", stated Donevski. However, the president of the Association of Aegean Macedonians in Bitola, Aleksandar Popovski, stated that his dignity does not allow him to alter the name of his birthplace.

Participants of the gathering visited Kostur and announced they would visit Sabotsko and Voden. According to radio Deutsche Welle, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs is satisfied with the current visit of the refugees. The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the private character of the event, evaluating that fears the organizers or participants "could raise their voices high" appeared unjustified.

Greek media did not dedicate much attention to the gathering. The visit of these political refugees to their birthplaces after 55 years of state enforced exile was marked by few newspapers in Athens. Most only emphasized the event was carried out peacefully, without giving further information about the nature of the gathering.