Outrageous behavior

In July of 2005, I was returning to Greece from Albania at the Krystallopigi, Florina, border crossing at 2 a.m. Although Greek passport holders pass straight through, I waited in the line along with the Albanians for hours to be submitted to what is quite an ordeal. I had heard unbelievable reports about the behavior of Greek police officials, reports that I thought were exaggerated. In front of me a young Albanian waited while a bored Greek police officer cleaned his nails. When he had finished, he glanced at the Albanian’s passport and handed it straight back to him, telling him he couldn’t pass through as his passport did not state his father’s name. The young man tried to explain to him that Albanian passports do not state the fathers’ names and that he had been traveling back and forth between the two countries for 12 years; he showed the officer his tax statements from Greece, where he ran a parking lot in Athens. The officer was not moved, however. When I protested on the man’s behalf, the officer rudely asked me why I cared, but changed his tune immediately when I told him I was a journalist and grudgingly let the man through. I thought that was an isolated case. One afternoon this month, I was at the same border post, this time on my way into Albania. An immigrant, along with his wife and two young children, parked his car at the control point, gave his papers to the officer who showed him where to leave the car while his documents were being checked. Obviously not having understood, the man parked somewhere else. Outraged, the police officer began screaming insults at the unfortunate Albanian. His wife panicked; the children burst into tears. A few hours later in Tirana, I mentioned the incident to a prominent member of the Greek minority. «Worse things happen,» he said. «If you could see how some people treat those who crowd outside the Greek Embassy waiting for a visa, you’d be furious.» And it wasn’t only a member of the Greek minority who had the worst to say about the shocking behavior of some police and customs officials toward immigrants, particularly at Krystallopigi. Three years ago, Archbishop Anastassios of Albania told me bitterly, «This is a major problem which I hope will be solved soon, because it poisons relations between the two peoples.»

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