U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Albania
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||1 June 2003|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Albania , 1 June 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3eddc4952.html [accessed 23 February 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
About 9,900 Albanians applied for asylum in other countries during the year, mostly in the United States (5,200) and the United Kingdom (1,200).
Albania hosted about 140 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2002, including about 130 pending cases and 7 persons granted refugee status.
During the year, about 150 persons filed asylum applications in Albania. Of these, the majority came from Yugoslavia (93) and Turkey (41). The Albanian government's Office for Refugees issued decisions on 33 claims, granting 7 persons from Turkey refugee status, and 1 Moldovan temporary humanitarian protection.
During the year, ten persons were resettled to third countries from Albania, including eight Kosovars to Australia. There were no mass refugee situations during the year.
Human Rights Situation
Albania's human rights record in 2002 continued to be a serious concern – thousands of Albanians sought asylum abroad. In June, Human Rights Watch published The Cost of Speech: Violations of Media Freedom in Albania, documenting unpunished harassment and violent attacks, mostly by police officers, against journalists for critical reporting. It also reported that torture and the physical abuse of detainees was widespread. High levels of violence, often as the result of individual or clan vigilante actions connected to traditional "blood feuds" or gang conflict, afflicted the country. Discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, particularly against ethnic Egyptians and Roma, remained pervasive.
Albania's 1998 constitution and asylum legislation provides for asylum and non-refoulement in accordance with international law. Besides refugee status, Albania provides for temporary protection on humanitarian grounds and in cases of mass influx. The Office for Refugees, part of the Ministry of Local Government, conducts status determinations, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has the right to observe asylum hearings. UNHCR also provides advice on individual cases at the request of the Office for Refugees. In April, the administration began a restructuring process. Claims were heard after that time, but there were no decisions issued due to staff shortages.
Refugees receive refugee identity cards, which provide proof of their right to remain. UNHCR and its non-governmental partner agencies run collective centers and shared homes where the majority of refugees. According to UNHCR, refugees and persons granted forms of temporary protection are generally free to choose their places of residence but the National Commission for Refugees may impose restrictions for "objective reasons." This was done, for example, during the Kosovo emergency when most Kosovar Albanian refugees wished to remain near the border. The government deemed this a security risk and also considered the facilities inadequate to care for them and decided to move thousands of them to middle and southern Albania.
A draft law on "Local Integration and Family Reunion of Persons Granted Asylum in Albania," as well as legislation reportedly aimed at facilitating the issuance of residence permits, was sent to the Council of Ministers for approval at the end of 2002 and is pending.
Albania signed readmission agreements with Germany, Bulgaria, and Romania during the year, although none had been ratified by year's end.
Ethnic Albanians from Macedonia
Most of the Macedonians who fled to Albania during the 2001 conflict in Macedonia voluntarily returned by year's end. Only two remained seeking asylum. The case of one was pending first instance decision at year's end and the other's had been denied, but the appeal was pending.
Kosovars In March, the National Commission for Refugees revoked the temporary protected status that had been accorded to Kosovars on the basis of their mass influx into Albania in 1999. Out of the total remaining Kosovar refugee population of about 150, some 90 persons applied for asylum, with decisions pending on the applications at the end of the year.
Pursuant to legislation passed in 2001, border police receive asylum requests at the border, ensure non-refoulement, and allow asylum seekers to enter the country even without the documentation otherwise required. Since the law entered into force, however, no asylum claims have been recorded at the border points.
An Inter-agency system implemented by UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Office for Refugees screens illegal foreigners discovered in Albania, asking them if they wish to apply for asylum. The in-country system includes qualified staff and translators to interview asylum seekers. In 2002, around 200 persons were pre-screened and 30 percent of them asked for asylum. At the border, however, where this system does not exist, over 500 foreigners without documentation were intercepted and turned back; none sought asylum. Concerned that asylum seekers may be denied the right to be heard, agencies planned to propose extending the pre-screening process to the borders.