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[ALBSA-Info] Albanian migrants 'turn back' on rebels–Greece

Gazhebo at Gazhebo at
Sun Jun 24 21:48:56 EDT 2001

Albanian migrants 'turn back' on rebels

Insurgency in FYROM not openly discussed by Albanians in Greece 
who,preoccupied with the need to make a living, favour a political solution 
to conflict


THE ETHNIC Albanian insurgency in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 
(FYROM), Greece's neighbour to the north, seems to have drawn little, if any, 
sympathy from Albanian migrants living and working here. 

Many Albanians would like to see an end to the conflict before it escalates 
further. They share the same concern as most Greeks - if a political solution 
is not reached to defuse the crisis, the armed clashes in FYROM could spiral 
out of control and threaten the stability of the entire region. 

"I believe violence will not solve the problems," says Albanian artist Artan 
Markou, who has lived in Athens since 1983. "Violence begets violence and 
creates more problems. I am against extreme nationalism... This is a sickness 
in the Balkans. I hope that a solution will be reached. Hope always dies 

However, like most Albanian migrants in Greece, Markou says he closely 
follows the media coverage of the clashes between Albanian guerrillas and 
Slavo-Macedonians. But it is not an overriding worry. "We have our own 
problems here," he notes. "Every person is struggling for a better life. Our 
struggle is here. It is not there. We are Albanian migrants from Albania who 
now live in Greece. We are not Albanians from FYROM." 

The Athens-based Forum of Albanian Migrants, an organisation established 
several years ago to promote the rights of members of Greece's largest 
minority group, also draws a distinction between Albanians in FYROM and 
Albanians from Albania who now reside and work in Greece. "The conflict in 
FYROM does not really affect Albanian migrants living in Greece," a key 
member of the body, Ervin Shehou, told the Athens News. "We are living in a 
very different reality. We are more concerned about finding a job and 
securing residency than anything else. For the many Albanians whom I have 
spoken to, this is not a daily concern for them." 

However, he did stress that "every minority anywhere in the world, whether in 
FYROM, Greece or Turkey, should enjoy the same rights as the majority", 
though Shehou vehemently denounced the methods being employed by the ethnic 
Albanian rebels. "Not only do I not agree with this, but am totally against 
the armed uprising," he says. It is worth noting that a large ethnic Greek 
minority lives in southern Albania. Greek main opposition party New Democracy 
MP Evgenios Haitidis recently expressed concern in parliament over claims 
that members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) are raising money in Greece 
to fund the fighting in FYROM. He alleged that members of the Albanian mafia 
have set up a profitable extortion racket in Greece selling fake residence 
permits to undocumented Albanian migrants and sending the money to the 
Albanian rebels. Acting government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris dismissed the 
allegation. He recently told a press briefing that Greek authorities are 
aware of all that goes on in this country and would take the necessary 
measures if this was the case. 

We approached a number of Albanian migrants to ask them if they knew or 
believed Albanians in Greece were raising money to support the rebels in 
FYROM. But none would provide an answer. They either refused to say anything, 
or insisted that they knew absolutely nothing about it. It appears that this 
topic is not openly discussed in the Albanian community here. 

While Albanian community representatives argue that Albanians here are in no 
way associated with the rebels in FYROM, some Greeks have a different view. 
During the Nato bombing against Yugoslavia in 1999, the vast majority of 
Greeks were against the alliance's campaign and did not sympathise with the 
Kosovo Albanians. 

"During the war in Kosovo," Markou says, "there was a form of hysteria 
against us. There were reports that large groups of Albanian migrants were 
leaving Greece to fight in Kosovo, but it just wasn't so." 

Today, many Albanians in Greece fear that the insurgency in FYROM will serve 
to intensify anti-Albanian sentiment here. In early June, the mayor of a 
small town in northern Greece did not allow undocumented Albanian migrants to 
submit applications for a residence permit in the new legalisation procedure. 
He reportedly claimed that they were KLA members and said they were not 
welcome in his town.  

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