Start-up Viking Hellas launches UK-Iraq flights via Athens


iraqOn 5 February, Europe saw the start of a new airline. The charter airline Viking Airlines, headquartered in Sweden but primarily based in the UK, has set up a new Greek subsidiary named Viking Hellas, which had its first flights at the end of last week.
The two weekly services now started from Athens, to Manchester in the UK and Erbil in Iraq, are scheduled in order to target the Manchester-Erbil market. From March, two further weekly destinations in Iraq will be added to the airline’s network; Baghdad and Sulaymaniyah. The frequency on the Manchester route will then be increased to thrice-weekly, again providing connections in Athens onward to Iraq.
The airline’s parent company Viking Airlines already operates from the UK to Iraq in a similar manner. Connections are offered from London Gatwick to its services from Stockholm Arlanda to Erbil, Sulaimaniyah, Baghdad and Najaf, while flights are operated from Birmingham to Malmö in order to connect onward from there to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.
The one aircraft registered with the airline, an ex-Viking Airlines MD-83 based in Athens, is only to be used as a back-up, while the core of Viking Hellas’ operations in the beginning will be operated with Viking Airlines’ Swedish-registered fleet of 737-300s and 737-800s out of Manchester. The airline is in the process of acquiring two A320s, one of which will take over the scheduled operations and the other which will operate charter flights out of Heraklion in Crete.

UK-Iraq an untapped market with great potential
Although the UK Iraqi Association estimates that between 300,000 and 400,000 Iraqis live in the UK, the only direct traffic recorded between the UK and Iraq during 2009 was on four charter flights, all to Erbil; three from London Stansted and one from London Luton, in total carrying 542 passengers. The previous year, there were no flights at all reported by the UK CAA.
Manchester-Athens is already served by easyJet, which saw over 35,000 passengers on the route in 2009. Viking Hellas’ fares on the route are therefore set low, starting at £59. UK-Iraq services, which are scarcer, are normally offered from £545 return, but at the moment from as low as £398.
The resurrected Iraqi Airways may provide serious competition to the current stopping services if its plans to start a Baghdad-London service materialises. The airline is, however, currently unable to give a start date for the route, which has been postponed from its initial launch date in August 2009.

London: Christian Greek Cypriot teacher «forced out» of his job denies insulting Muslim girl over headscarf


444A primary school teacher who claims he was forced out of his job today denied making offensive remarks about a Muslim pupil’s headscarf.
Nicholas Kafouris (foto), who is suing his former school for racial discrimination, told the girl she was ‘wearing a headscarf for no reason’, according to a parent.
The parent claimed Mr Kafouris was promoting ‘Christianity as better than Islam’ and complained to the headteacher, an employment tribunal heard.
He denied making the comment, insisting it would make ‘no sense’ for him to have said it.
The teacher claimed that complaints were only made against him after he reported racist remarks made by the pupils.
Mr Kafouris submitted several letters from former pupils to the hearing which spoke of his respect for other religions, including Islam.
One letter, from former colleague Selima Chaudhury, described him as ‘professional’and an ‘excellent teacher’.
Mrs Chaudhury said: ‘I never heard Nicholas make any comments about children’s race, colour or religion. On the contrary, he respected and valued all the religions.
‘As a devout Muslim myself, I know very well that Nicholas has never and would never make any adverse remarks to the children or the parents about Islam.’
Mr Kafouris, a Greek Cypriot, taught for 12 years at Bigland Green Primary School in Tower Hamlets, East London.
He claims he was forced to leave his £30,000-a-year job because he would not put up with the ‘racist’ and anti-Semitic’ behaviour of his pupils.
The predominantly Muslim youngsters, some as young as eight, openly praised Islamic extremists in class and described the September 11 terrorists as ‘heroes and martyrs’.
One pupil said: ‘Don’t touch me, you’re a Christian’ when he brushed against him.
Others said: ‘We want to be Islamic bombers when we grow up’, and ‘The Christians and Jews are our enemies – you too because you’re a Christian’.
According to Ofsted ‘almost all’ the school’s 465 pupils are from ethnic minorities and a vast proportion do not speak English as a first language.
Mr Kafouris claims racial discrimination by the school, its headmistress and her assistant head after they failed to take action about the pupils’ comments.
He said there was a change in attitude of the pupils after the atrocities of September 11, 2001.
They told him: ‘We hate the Christians’ and ‘We hate the Jews’, despite his attempts to stop them.
He said he filled out a Racist Incident Reporting Sheet but claimed headmistress Jill Hankey dismissed his concerns.
Kafouris was signed off with stress by his GP at the end of February 2007 after assistant head Margaret Coleman warned him not to challenge the pupils in class about their remarks.
He says the lack of support from the school has made him clinically depressed and unable to work. He was sacked in April last year.
(source: daily mail, foto: Robin Bell)

Strike to ground planes in Greece


aeAn upcoming strike by the civil servants union ADEDY on February 10 is expected to seriously disrupt air transport on that day because of the participation of air-traffic controllers and civil aviation electronics engineers in the strike, called to protest against a wage freeze and cuts in benefits announced by the government for public-sector staff.

Festival Hellenika returns to Adelaide

0Adelaide is gearing up for a two-month program of Hellenic arts and cultural events as the annual FESTIVAL HELLENIKA returns in 2010.
The 2010 program will start with ‘The Migration of Ideas: It’s All Greek to Me’ exhibition at the Immigration Museum and will finish with a night of local artists presenting their work on film as well as their creative writing and performances at the historic Scots Church in the city centre.
Another seven events will be on offer to Adelaideans in the course of the festival, including music workshops, a season of Greek films and am exhibition which will feature Adelaide’s unrecognised and mostly unnoticed Hellenic inspired imagery.
Asked what new elements have been introduced into the Festival in 2010, festival spokesperson Stamatiki Kritas said:
“We try to introduce new and exciting elements into the festival every year.
Our annual music concert Music Hellenika® this year is dedicated to the GREEK DIVAS – Women in Greek songs. We are also delighted to present an exclusive screening of a documentary and a concert dedicated to the rebetika song writer Markos Vamvakaris.”
In its 19th year FESTIVAL HELLENIKA is different from the major Greek Festivals in other major cities of Australia as it is not run by a major Greek community organisation.
The Festival is run by an independent organisation which represents Greek community organisations and regional brotherhoods.
Asked what are the challenges of presenting a Festival which is not aligned with a major community organisation, Stamatiki Kritas replied:
“It is not a challenge; it is an advantage and an opportunity to act as a uniting force as we are the only umbrella organisation with 24 members who are all community based organisations interested in the Arts and culture.”
“We are not only open to participation but we actively invite participation from the Greek and broader community in its entirety.”
As a result FESTIVAL HELLENIKA has been able to form partnerships and collaborations with mainstream art bodies and organisations such as the Adelaide Festival Centre, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the Migration Museum, the Fringe Festival, the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute and other for both one-off and ongoing projects.
The Festival also actively targets second and third generation Greek Australians and actively looks for ways of attracting the young Australian born.
They have invited representative of NUGAS onto the Board so that they can ‘listen to what the second and third generation Greek Australians are interested in,’ said Kritas.
“We always try to present topics and themes that are known to the youth.
For example, our main concert this year MUSIC HELLENIKA, focuses entirely on Women in Greek songs.
The great thing is that the artists who are participating are themselves young women of second and third generation Greek Australians from Adelaide.”
The bottom line for the Festival is simple, according to Kritas: that Festival Hellenika® always supports, nurtures and promotes local artists.
For event information or the full and official programme of the festival please call: Stamatiki Kritas on 0402 072 741 or George Apostolou on 0417 844 140
(source: neos kosmos)

New Migrant Law in Greece


foto metanastes_highThe newly elected Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government’s plans to move legislation, that will greatly affect migrants and refugees, have been both welcomed and criticised by rights organisations and activists.
The interior ministry is ready with legislation that will allow migrants to apply for citizenship as long as they have maintained legal status for more than five years.
Other requirements include a clean criminal record, reference letters from Greek citizens and clearance of language, history and politics tests. Second generation migrants and minors who have attended six years of schooling in Greece will be also entitled.

Foreigners arriving in the country after the law is enforced will require seven years of legal residence before applying which, together with consideration procedures, may stretch to a decade. Foreigners acquiring citizenship will also be given the right, for the first time in Greece’s history, to get involved in municipal election.
The ministry’s declaration has outraged extreme right-wing organisations, including the populist parliamentary party, Popular Orthodox Alarm, which has demanded a referendum on what it has described as a mistake that will damage the national character of the electorate. A referendum is not provided for in the Greek constitution for amending legislation on citizenship and political rights.
More than anything the new law is expected to address injustice to second generation migrants living in Greece.
Migrants’ children born or present since very early age in the country have so far faced an unfriendly citizenship law with restricted access. Such children, on reaching 18 years of age, have had to live as foreigners under regulations governing the residence of aliens in the country and without the rights due to ordinary citizens.

The new law is far from perfect. It will only help some of the more than 200,000 second generation migrants estimated to be living in Greece, lawyer Aggeliki Serafim told IPS.

A member of the ‘Group of lawyers for the rights of refugees and migrants,’ she said the main issue is that that the new law ”connects children to the legal status of parents without even including a provision for appreciating the reasons why the parents are considered irregular.”

”On top of that, it is very well known that since 2008 we have been facing a major wave of people who, for various administrative and legal reasons, are pushed into irregular status,” Serafim said. ”Without considering the status and fate of the thousands of irregulars in Greece, this legislation will be a selective law providing for a few while, I am afraid, while excluding many others.”

Concerns have also been raised by the local office of Amnesty International (AI) regarding plans for establishing a new body authorised to research and report on abuses and human rights violations committed by uniformed authorities.
Amnesty repeated its concerns in a public statement last month regarding the ”failure of authorities to guarantee that policemen respect and protect human rights” and cautioned that the mandate of the new office, as currently formulated, will not be adequate for pursuing independent investigations.
Greek police and the coastal guard have been denounced multiple times for their gross record of human rights violations during the last few years during which the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance have called for the introduction of an investigative body.
The government has also undertaken an initiative to invite civil society actors to a full-scale debate about the reorganisation of the asylum system and the replacement of the notorious ‘’detention” centres with new ”screening” and ”registration” facilities.
Asylum procedures collapsed last year while the previous right-wing New Democracy government pursued a rather xenophobic policy that totally curbed access to asylum, rejecting even people in serious need of international protection.
”As a result we are left with a 90,000-application backlog which needs to be assessed while we move on to the new system. The previous situation has helped people in power to understand the real nature of the issue and accept a more pragmatic approach this time. The new system will facilitate access to asylum to those in real need while reducing its abusive use,” Afroditi Al Saleh, a special advisor to the ministry, told IPS.
”The target is that by next May we will have prepared a totally new structure staffed by specialised civilian personnel with departments dispersed around the country that will undertake asylum interviews and administrative procedures,” Al Saleh said.
The new asylum system will play a central role in boosting border management in the Aegean Sea through which most aliens gained entry into the European Community over the last few years. This is already being pursued with the serious involvement of FRONTEX, the European body created to coordinate operational cooperation at EU borders.
”Support given to Greek authorities focuses on surveillance capacities, identification of migrants who crossed the border in an illegal way and assistance in obtaining travel documents for those persons who are supposed to be repatriated,” said FRONTEX spokesman Michal Parzyszek.
Effectively, the operation is integrating Greek border management into a wider European Border Surveillance System prescribed in the Stockholm Programme, a key text on freedom and security endorsed by the Community at the end of last year, as a mechanism supervised by FRONTEX and enhanced by new surveillance technologies and improved methods of establishing the nationality of third-country nationals and deportation.
Beyond practical proceedings the spirit of Stockholm supports ‘an intelligence gathering and co-coordinative mechanism between member states that ‘’serves a closed borders policy,” says Natassa Straxini, a human rights activist and acknowledged defender of asylum seekers.
”European migration policy in the future will be based on the fact that we accept whoever we cannot expel on a legal basis while nobody else stands a hope of getting in and staying. In the future economic migrants and environmental refugees will find it increasingly difficult to take the trip to the West, no matter the reasons forcing them to do so,” she said.

1,800-Year-Old Greek Church to be Restored in Bodrum, Turkey


5555A project is underway to restore and open to visitors a 1,800-year-old Greek church near the town of Bodrum (foto) in western Turkey, national media reported recently.
The Gara Church, according to the publication, is located within a tourism facility built by a private firm, NF Construction and Tourism, which has had a report prepared outlining ways to preserve and restore the church, and open it to visitors, the Hurriet Daily News reported.
The church dates back to the late Roman-early Byzantine era from AD 2 to 4, and boasts remains that are unique and important in terms of archeology and art history, Dr. Emine Tok of Ege University’s art history noted in a report, cited by the publication.
image3235_b“The mosaics, especially on the church floor (foto), are the most important and rare kind,” according to the report. “It is possible to restore the church and turn it into an asset for tourism. The building will not last long considering its current situation; it should immediately be repaired.”
The church, which is 8 metres high, has a well, a cistern and water canals, one prayer room and two living quarters. The floor mosaic, thought to have been brought from Egypt, has images of four dolphins and a swordfish, symbols of the religious beliefs of the time.
The plan for the restoration of the church involves covering the mosaics with glass and turning it into a museum of culture and art.
Representatives of local tourism businesses, cited in the publication, claim that the church’s restoration will contribute to the development of cultural tourism in the region, which is mostly known for as a destination for beach vacations.
“Such a project will highlight the ties between different cultures and religions, bringing them together, and will attract tourists from many countries, including neighboring Greece,” Remzi Güngör, a tour operator from Bodrum, told the media.
So far, around 100,000 US dollars have been spent for scientific research and the restoration project, said Fırat Özbaşar, an executive from NF Construction and Tourism, which operates the boutique hotel next to the Gara Church, adding that “an additional 300,000 US dollars is needed to turn the church into a museum and a cultural center.”
“Maybe a different project can be completed at a much lesser cost, but we aim for the 1,800-year-old church to become an important religious location, not only for Bodrum but for Turkey and Europe,” Özbaşar concluded.

The Olympic torch route


16236_m15The Olympic torch will be carried by hundreds of people through Langley, Surrey, Delta, White Rock and New Westminster on Feb. 8 and 9. The torchbearers will run through Cloverdale starting at 2:40 p.m. Feb. 8 after earlier stops in Walnut Grove, Fort Langley, Aldergrove and along the 200 Street corridor.

The relay resumes in Newton at 2:54 p.m. and will make a celebration stop at city hall at 3:30 p.m. before continuing.

The torch is scheduled to reach Fraser Highway and 160 Street at 5:39 p.m. and Guildford Town Centre at 6:14 p.m. before going to the City of Surrey’s Celebration Site at Holland Park (King George Highway and 100 Avenue) for 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 9 will see an early start for the torch at 6:12 a.m. heading south along 152 Street from Highway 99 through South Surrey into White Rock. It’s expected to enter White Rock at 6:36 a.m. and head southwest on Buena Vista before going east along Marine Drive, with a stop scheduled at Peace Arch Park at 7:30 a.m.

The torch then goes to North Delta and up the 112 Street corridor at 8:43 a.m. before turning east to Scott Road.

From 9:30 a.m. on, it zigzags northeast through Whalley until 10:26 a.m., when it crosses the river for a three-hour leg and community celebration in New Westminster.

The flame will blaze back for one more foray south of the Fraser starting at 2:04 p.m. in Tsawwassen, followed by Tsawwassen First Nation at 2:53 p.m. and Ladner at 3:21 p.m.

All times are approximate.

The torch relay can be followed at

Real estate in Constantinople


istanbul04The final act of the long-standing legal dispute between the Fokas brothers and the Turkish state – which lasted more than 18 years – was the fact that Turkey did not exercise the right of appeal against a European Court decision by the deadline, December 29, 2009. The ruling, which vindicates the two brothers and sentences Turkey to pay the value of the inheritance (over 24 million euros), is now irrevocable and immediately applicable.
When it was issued, the European Court ruling was hailed by Greek political leaders as “historic”. Turkey’s decision not to appeal the ruling has both legal and political importance, according to the Fokas’ lawyer, indicating that defence of human rights and individual freedoms is above flags, nationalities and religions.
(source: voice of greece)

19th Annual Leadership 100 Round Up


DSCN0783smThe Hellenic organization, Leadership 100 had its 19th annual gathering on San Diego’s Coronado Island. The event had it all from celebrity attendees to Greek food, forums, dinner- galas, and dancing. The conference that took place at the luxurius “Del Coronado Resort” began on Feb 4th and ran until Feb 7th. The program included speeches from prominent Greek-Americans, such as author George Pelecanos and Dr. Nick Yphantides.

On Friday Feb 5th, the general assembly of the organization announced its new chairman as Mr. Constantine Caras succeeding outgoing chairman, Mr. Steve Yonas.  Paulette Poulos holds the position of the Leadership 100 acting executive director.

Watch new chairman Constantine Caras talking about the organization


On Saturday night, Ambassador George Argyros received a lifetime achievement award by Archibishop Demetrios during the prestigious ceremony and dinner held in the main ballroom.

A holy liturgy conducted by Archibishop Demetrios  on Sunday morning at San Diego’s Saint Spyridon Cathedral concluded the conference.

Watch Archbishop Demetrios talking about Leadership 100


The next conference for Leadership 100 will take place in 2011 in Palm Beach, Florida.

The program for Greek National Independence Day commemoration

3232Τhe Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria will commemorate the Greek National Day, Sunday March 28, 2010, with the traditional March at the majestic Shrine of Remembrance.
The Commemoration will commence at 12.00 p.m. with the march of Community Schools and Organizations at the Shrine and will conclude at 1.00 p.m.

The program for the day is as follows:
1.00.a.m. Participants converge and take their designated positions on Tom’s Block alongside the service lane of St. Kilda Rd. alongside Linlithgow Av. and Anzac Av.
11.30 a.m. Participants form in groups along the service lane.
11.45 a.m. Groups move to the steps leading to the Forecourt of the Shrine.
11.50 a.m. Officials take their positions at the steps leading to Shrine.
12.00 p.m. Parade commences.
12.45. p.m. Service at the Eternal Flame.
13.00 p.m. Parade concludes.
The General Secretary of the Organising Committee, Kostas Nikolopoulos, told NKEE that this year’s commemoration will commence at noon to enable the attendants to disperse before the city becomes swamped by Grand Prix goers.