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MHRMC - Press Release

Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Announces Free Return
of Macedonian Political Refugees

June 9, 2003

Macedonian political refugees (known as the Detsa Begaltsi or child refugees), were evacuated from Greece during the Civil War of 1946-49 and have consistently been denied entry into Greece simply because they assert their Macedonian ethnic identity. Former child refugees who assert a Greek identity have been allowed to return to Greece. In an historical announcement, the Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, Andreas Loverdos, pledges that Macedonian political refugees will finally be allowed to enter Greece. Answering a question on the free visit of "non-ethnic Greek" political refugees he stated that "since we have overcome all these problems of the past and of the civil war... we want to overcome this vestige too sooner rather than later...during this summer." This announcement comes at an opportune time as the Detsa Begaltsi's Third World Reunion will take place July 15-20, 2003 in Aegean Macedonia. Click to read the article in the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia. Click for the English translation (.pdf format). An article was also written in the Macedonian newspaper Utrinski Vesnik.

Background information on the Detsa Begaltsi

MHRMC press releases from the Detsa Begaltsi Reunion of 1998:
Detsa Begaltsi Border Crossing into Greece
Upcoming Second World Reunion of the Detsa Begaltsi
Greek Helsinki Monitor press releases:
Common Statement of 11 NGO's on the Macedonian Refugees and the Macedonian Minority
Issues Related to the Macedonian Minority in Greece: The Visit of the Macedonian Children Refugees

Excerpt from Human Rights Violations Against Ethnic Macedonians by the MHRMC:

"Because of these life-threatening circumstances, it was decided to evacuate the children and to save them from certain death. Although it was only supposed to be a temporary measure, it became a life-long exile for the vast majority of the children.

A total of 28,000 children, aged 2-14 years, left their war-torn homeland for the safety of the Eastern European countries. With the assistance of the Red Cross in these countries, they were housed, fed and educated. Tragically, 1,200 children between the ages of 14-15 were brought back to the battlefield by the Provisional Government of the Greek Communists, the majority of whom were slaughtered in the last days of the Greek Civil War.

For the Macedonian children that remained in the Eastern European countries, life was made very difficult by the separation from their parents, grandparents, and the homes in which they were raised. Because of the generosity of the host countries, the basic needs of the children were always fulfilled, even to the extent that Macedonian language classes were a regular part of the school curriculum. With time, the majority of the children emigrated to the free part of Macedonia (at the time the Republic of Macedonia within Yugoslavia), only a handful returned to the Aegean part of Macedonia because of the ongoing discrimination and attempt at the assimilation of the ethnic Macedonians. Many of the children later emigrated to Western countries such as Canada, the United States and Australia, to be re-united with other members of their families, and became prominent and productive members of those societies.

The situation in the Aegean part of Macedonia has unfortunately not changed significantly since the 1940's. Even internationally guaranteed fundamental human rights are not enjoyed by the ethnic Macedonians in Greece, the Greek government denies the very existence of any Macedonian minority within its borders. In 1982, the Greek Parliament, under the leadership of Mr. Andreas Papandreou, passed legislation named Bill 1540, which allowed for a general amnesty and repatriation of all political refugees who left Greece during the Civil War, a restoration of their civil rights and the reinstatement of confiscated properties. The injustice lies in the fact that Bill 1540 only applies to persons of Greek nationality. Any of the children who left Greece and declare themselves as Greek citizens of Macedonian ethnicity are not granted repatriation.

It is ironic that the former leaders of the Greek Communist Party, who were responsible for the Civil War, were allowed to return freely to Greece, while innocent children that were evacuated with the help of the Red Cross are prevented from returning to their birthplaces. Even as Canadian citizens with valid Canadian passports, they are not permitted to visit Greece as tourists or to attend funerals of immediate family members. All this because the former children refugees declare themselves to be ethnically Macedonian, a right which is guaranteed by all International Human Rights Agreements and to which Greece is a signatory.

The Association of Refugee Children from Aegean Macedonia (ARCAM) was formed in the year 1979, with the intention of uniting all former Macedonian children refugees living in Canada and throughout the whole world. One of the main objectives of ARCAM was to facilitate the adaptation of these people into their new homelands so that they could become more productive members of their respective societies. Another main objective was to organize the refugee children to work in a systematic manner for the achievement of fundamental human and national rights as ethnic Macedonians. With chapters of ARCAM existing in: Toronto, Canada; Adelaide, Australia; Perth, Australia; Melbourne, Australia; Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; Poland; Czech Republic; and Slovakia, they will continue their struggle until Greece recognizes the Macedonians within its borders as a separate ethnic people, grants them all of the fundamental human rights as enjoyed by other ethnic groups throughout the world and as guaranteed by International Agreements such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the 1975 Helsinki (human rights) Accords."

Bill Nicholov
Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Address: 157 Adelaide St. West, Suite 434, Toronto, Canada M5H 4E7
Tel: 416-850-7125 Fax: 416-850-7127
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