(en) ++ Albania Special

Freedom Press (freedom@tao.ca)
Sat, 26 Apr 1997 21:44:09 GMT

A AA AAAA The A-Infos News Service AA AA AA AA INFOSINFOSINFOS http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/ AAAA AAAA AAAAA AAAAA

SCANDAL UNDER THE SUN Continuing FREEDOM's report from Albania


I'm a sucker for a teenager with tears in her eyes. I'm a bit of a soft touch for a man with an empty socket where his left eye should be - an eye recently removed by a ricochet bullet. That's how I came to meet the Korroneci family outside the Greek passport office. The daughter, 15 year old Silvouies, was overcome with emotion. She was pleading with one of a pair of Greek television cameramen. The cameraman had a stony expression on his face.=20

I asked: "Do you speak English ?" She turned towards me and I took her photo. The Greek police went mad. "No photos!" they cried, "No photos ! " = =20

I took details of their case put by the girl in clear English. She said her father and mother had visas in their passport, and that she and her brother were on her father's passport. The problem had cropped up because the Greek police suspected she was over 15 years old, and therefore required her own passport and visa. Her brother is 12 years old and also on his father's passport. =20

Silvouies says: "We are all dead, and all because of me !" She claimed the whole family would have to return to Giashte (Qafe) near Saranda, because the rest of the family couldn't enter Greece and leave her to return home alone. =20

I offer to help, and ask her to write down her address on my pad. In high feeling, she scribbled: "We are all dead if they don't let us go to Greece". She gave her brother' s name as Klement, and her father' s as Sherif Korroneci. I took her address, but she told me they had no telephone. I promised I would put their case to the Albanian Consul in Ioannina. =20

She said the Greek television man had said he thought they should be allowed into Greece, but claimed he could do nothing for them. Not an issue which would help his ratings. =20

She demurred: "They will not let me in because they think I am older as I am not beautiful". I thought - but being an Englishman, did not say- that perhaps the Greeks will not let you in because you are too beautiful. This thought afterwards nagged me, at least I could have told her that and it would have helped her face the journey home to Giashte. =20

When, preoccupied, I later board my bus back to Ioannina in Northern Greece, the policeman who had earlier detained me and help to send the Korroneci family back to Albania approaches me to do a last minute check of our passports. "What did the girl have to say?" he queries.=20

I said she seemed quite plausible. He maintained it was the second time she had tried to cross into Greece, and each time with a different father. He added: "We have to be careful, very careful, it is like Mexicans trying to get into the USA - we have to keep these people out!" My heart sank.=20


Since this frontier incident I went, as promised to see the Albanian Consul in Ioannina. At first he claimed that he didn' t have the right to intervene, but when I explained about the father Sherif having a visa he said he could do something, but would require two passport photos of the= girl.=20

Now for the problem! The area Giashte does not have a telephone line to it, so the family can't be contacted by telephone. Nor can they be reached by the post, he claimed, because of the disruption of services. =20

The Albanian Consul himself can't travel to Giashte as he is employed by the government in Tirana and would be persona non grata in the rebel south of the country. =20

He says that I should try to ring Nico Kanellos, the Greek Consul General in Gjirokaster- and tell him the situation. As I am a citizen of the European Union, it seems my efforts will carry more weight. It proves impossible to get through to Mr Kanellos. A week earl=EDer the Herald Tribune had reported that gunmen had entered the Greek Consul in Gjirokaster demanding visas, and the Consul may have closed down.

I say that I will try to contact the Greek authorities on my return to= England.=20


Postscript: Freedom has contacted the press office at the Greek Embassy. A Mrs Laycock was unable to help, but promised to get back to us. The telephone number of the Greek Embasy in London is 0171-229 3850.=20

------------------------------------------------------------- Last week, the last of the European Security Force led by the Italians landed in Albania. The multinational force, some six thousand strong, is going in to protect aid supplies and presumably create some stability for the coming elections in June. =20

It is a dodgy operation in which the overall aims are far from clear. Both Greece and Italy wanted Europe to put a force in to stop the flow of refugees into their respective countries. =20

Below we report on the frontier politics of fear and despair at the Greek border. Perhaps an even greater tragedy struck in the Adriatic Sea off the Italian coast, when an Italian warship struck and sank a refugee ship last month. Naturally there is great anger in Albania over this incident. =20

The fear that this anger may lead to attacks of the Italian forces in the Security Force split the Italian government coalition and nearly brought the Prime Minister down. Only the support of centre-right opposition saved him. = =20

An editorial in the Washington Post on 4th April warned: "Italy, France and other likely providers of peace-keepers (the United States is indisposed) accept a responsibility to restore stability. They are ill-prepared politically to pay hard casualty costs."=20 ------------------------------------------------------------- EXPELLED FROM GREECE TO ALBANIA GYPSIES SHOWN HE DOOR

On 4th April the Greek authorities moved to expel large numbers of gypsies from Greece. The rounding-up was reported on Greek television that night, and in the afternoon Freedom's man was there on the Albanian side of the Kakavia frontier to photograph and document how Europe disposes of what it sees as human debris into the Albanian republic. =20 We were there to see them discarded from Greek army wagons straight through the metal gate onto Albanian soil. Bewildered children, worried mothers, proud fathers, plastic baths, baggage, bundles of possessions, babies in arms, through the frontier they trooped. A tragic stream of humanity. Europe's rejects.=20

A few of the men queried my use of the camera, but most were too deeply engrossed in their own tragedy. Eventually they huddled together and crouched on the ground surrounded by their belongings. =20

Human beings treated like so much refuse. One couldn't help but feel a certain disgust. A self-loathing for our own smug, sleek lives in the heart of Europe. What we were witnessing was a scandal under the sun. =20

This feeling was not reduced when, the night after, Greek television sought to justify its action by showing the expulsion of refugees elsewhere in Europe. In Gerrnany, where the eastern Europeans were being pushed onto trains; in Spain, where Moroccans were being forced onto boats.=20


The special report and pictures received from our correspondent in Albania as we go to press, together with our final message before the forthcoming British general election, means we have had to hold over several features, including an article on 'Black Britain Today' by Milan Rai, the promised 'Welcome of Saranda' report and interviews, and an account of Freedom' s anti-election advertising campaign. These will appear in our next issue.


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