On World Refugee Day, UMD Calls on Greece to Repeal Laws from 1980s

On World Refugee Day, the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) commemorates the 71st anniversary of the mass exodus of Macedonian children refugees (the Deca Begalci) from Greece.

On this important day, UMD reiterates its call on Greece to repeal the Greek laws that discriminate against Macedonians and to afford the Macedonian children refugees of the Greek Civil War the right to repatriation and restitution for their confiscated property and resources – the very same rights currently limited only to “Greeks by genus.” UMD also requests that the Greek Government reverse its long-standing denial of basic human rights to all ethnic and religious minorities within Greece.

UMD calls upon Greece to embrace its diversity and fully extend democratic justice for the Macedonian children refugees. UMD believes that the Tsipras Government has the perfect opportunity to change Greece’s image and improve its human rights record.

During the Greek Civil War from 1944 to 1949, Greek army forces forcibly exiled 44,000 Macedonian children refugees between the ages of two and fourteen to places like Skopje, Belgrade, Budapest, Prague, Bucharest, and as far out as Moscow, Warsaw and Tashkent.

UMD calls upon Greece to recognize the ethnic cleansing that occurred, while also allowing the Macedonians to repatriate. Per the Amnesty Law of 1982, only refugees that are “Greeks by genus” would be allowed entry back into Greece. As for the countless illegally confiscated properties, a Greek law enacted 1985 would only compensate those that were “Greeks by genus”.

Furthermore, since the annexation of Aegean Macedonia by Greece under the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest, the Greek government and Greek Orthodox Church has upheld a policy of a systematic and forced assimilation of the Macedonian minority in Northern Greece. Besides exile, Macedonians in Northern Greece have been subject to ethnic cleansings, political persecution, imprisonment, and harassment.

The language of the 1982 and 1985 Greek laws on return and compensation exemplify the Greek government’s continued denial of the most basic human rights to its numerous ethnic minorities. This is a part of its on-going and specious attempt to claim that Greece is an ethnically homogenous nation, despite evidence to the contrary from the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, Helsinki Watch and the United Nations. Macedonians in Greece are not allowed even core liberties such as (1) simply identifying themselves as Macedonian and being able to hold Macedonian names, (2) speaking or studying their own language, (3) expressing their religious affiliation including practicing in their language, (4) sharing their culture with their fellow citizens, (5) establishing cultural associations, and (6) petitioning the Greek government for the redress of their grievances and injuries.