Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014, 11:39 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Albania

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2001
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Albania , 20 June 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3b31e15d0.html [accessed 24 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Albania hosted more than 500 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2000, the overwhelming majority, 507, from Kosovo. Small numbers of refugees from Iraq, Turkey, and Sudan also remained in Albania at year's end, as did five asylum seekers with pending asylum claims.

During 2000, 83 persons filed asylum applications in Albania. Of these, 34 were from Turkey (mostly Kurdish), 25 from Iraq (mostly Kurdish), and 15 from Kosovo. During the year, the Albanian government's Office for Refugees issued decisions on 29 asylum cases, accepting 21 and denying 8. It also closed the cases of 70 applicants who failed to appear for their status determination interviews.

Albanian nationals lodged 5,210 asylum applications in other European countries during the year, up 51 percent from 1999.

During the 1999 crisis in Kosovo, some 465,000 people sought refuge in Albania. Nearly all departed the country the same year. In 2000, Albania reverted to being primarily a country of transit for asylum seekers and migrants of various nationalities trying to reach Italy and other Western European countries.

Kosovars

The number of Kosovar refugees in Albania declined from around 4,000 at the beginning of 2000 to just over 500 at year's end. Although exact figures were not available, repatriation to Kosovo accounted for much of the decrease. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) resettled a small number of refugees from Kosovo during the year.

Most refugees from Kosovo who remained in Albania at year's end were vulnerable people, including the elderly and handicapped, for whom repatriation to harsh living conditions in Kosovo would have been difficult, if not impossible. Those who remained lived with host families or in one collective center, the Olympia center for refugees. The center is scheduled to close in May 2001.

UNHCR and several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) provided assistance, health care, education, and counseling to Kosovar refugees during the year. UNHCR and its implementing partner, the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), also attempted to identify durable solutions for the remaining refugees in the Olympia collective center in view of its impending closure. UNHCR offered limited assistance for those expressing the wish either to repatriate or locally integrate.

Asylum

Albania's Constitution and 1998 asylum legislation provided for the right to asylum and nonrefoulement in accordance with international law. During 2000, the Office for Refugees conducted status determinations in accordance with its 1998 asylum law. UNHCR retained the right to observe asylum hearings and provided advice on individual cases at the request of the Office for Refugees.

ICMC accommodated asylum seekers in several shelters during the year and provided modest cash assistance, health care, and counseling services.

Recognized refugees receive residence permits and are eligible for benefits on the same terms as Albanian nationals. Although refugees are also eligible to receive work permits, the Ministry of Labor had not issued them any work permits by year's end.

Transit to Europe

During the year, Albania continued to serve as a transit country for asylum seekers and migrants – mostly ethnic Kurds from Iraq and Turkey, Pakistanis, and Chinese – trying to reach Western Europe.

Italy and other European Union member countries exerted considerable pressure on the government to crack down on smugglers who ferried the undocumented across the Adriatic Sea to Italy. Albania and Italy organized regular joint land and sea patrols throughout the year. During the summer, Albania passed legislation making it easier to confiscate boats used for human smuggling, which led to an increase in the number of speedboats impounded during the second half of the year. Albania also cooperated with Greece and Macedonia to combat migrant smuggling and trafficking.

Although their numbers appeared to be on the decline from 1999, thousands of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers continued to cross from Albania to Italy in 2000. On New Year's Day, an Italy-bound vessel transporting 59 undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, mostly from China, sank in the 44-mile channel that separates Albania from Italy, killing all on board. Others died while attempting to reach Italy during the year.

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