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[ALBSA-Info] Albanian migrants 'turn back' on rebelsGreeceGazhebo at aol.com Gazhebo at aol.com
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 BY KATHY TZILIVAKIS 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 last." 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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