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2.5.2013 | Von:
Julie Vullnetari

Albanian Refugees and Asylum Seekers

During the communist years almost all emigrants who managed to escape Albania were granted refugee status in the countries they settled. Yet, after the multi-party elections of March 1991, which saw the opposition Democratic Party as the clear winner, host governments' attitudes changed rapidly and Albanians were increasingly considered as economic migrants. For example, Italy accepted as political refugees the 25,000 Albanians who landed in Apulia in the March 1991 boat exodus, but refused the 20,000 or so who reached its shores in August of the same year considering them as economic migrants on the grounds that Albania was now a 'democratic country'.[1]

Throughout the last two post-communist decades legal migration channels to the EU and other industrialized countries remained closed for the vast majority of ordinary Albanians. As such, seeking asylum was one of the few options available for those wanting to escape life in Albania. Many had clear reasons for doing so ranging from escaping blood feuds, human traffickers, homophobia, gender-based violence, to ethnically-based persecution (Romani) or politically-motivated elimination. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates just under 180,000 Albanians (179,805) were recognized as refugees between 1990 and 2010.[2]

Table 5: Albanian refugees by host country, 1996-2005, top five asylum destinations
CountryNumber%
Source: UNHCR (2005)
USA34,39442
Germany8,64211
France8,22110
Canada8,10910
UK4,9626
Other17,23921
Total81,567100

The visa-free travel to the Schengen area for holders of Albanian biometric passports, which came into effect in December 2010, has given rise to another wave of asylum claims in these countries. In 2012 alone, the number of asylum applications from Albanian citizens stood at more than 5,000.[3] However, the vast majority of these have been refused as unfounded and Albania's Chief of Police has vowed to penalize all those 'abusing' the visa-free and asylum system, declaring that the police has files on all returnees.[4]

Fußnoten

1.
King (2003).
2.
UNHCR data in World Bank (2012).
3.
ESI (2012), p. 5.
4.
'Belgium returns 66 Albanian asylum seekers', published in the Albanian daily Panorama on 24 October 2012, available at: http://www.panorama.com.al/2012/10/24/belgjika-kthen-66-shqiptare-kerkuan-azil-politik.
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