Albania hosted about 400 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2001, the majority from Kosovo. Small numbers of refugees and asylum seekers from Turkey and Iraq also remained in Albania at year's end, as well as 37 ethnic Albanians from Macedonia who entered during the year, most of whom were granted temporary protection.

During the year, 160 persons filed asylum applications in Albania. Of these, 69 were from Turkey (mostly Kurds), 54 from Macedonia (all ethnic Albanians), 14 from Yugoslavia (from Kosovo), and 13 from Iraq (mostly Kurds). The Albanian government's Office for Refugees issued decisions on 36 asylum cases in 2001, granting 27 and denying 9. Of those provided protection, the Office for Refugees granted UN Refugee Convention refugee status to 6 and temporary protection on humanitarian grounds to 21.

Albanian nationals lodged 2,770 asylum applications in other European countries during the year, a 40 percent decrease from 1999. Another 1,475 Albanians filed asylum claims in the United States during the year.


Albania's 1998 constitution and asylum legislation provides for the right to asylum and non-refoulement (no forced return of refugees) in accordance with international law. During 2001, the Office for Refugees conducted status determinations in accordance with its 1998 asylum law. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) retained the right to observe asylum hearings and provided advice on individual cases at the request of the Office for Refugees.

Recognized refugees receive refugee identity cards, which provide proof of their right to remain. The majority are accommodated in collective centers and other shared homes funded by UNHCR and run by nongovernmental partner agencies.

During the year, the Albanian government and Parliament drafted asylum regulations that would establish new rules regarding local integration, including residence permits and social services. By year's end, however, the new regulations had not been promulgated.

Ethnic Albanians from Macedonia

An indeterminate number of ethnic Albanians fleeing conflict in Macedonia crossed into Albania during the year. Relatively few actually sought asylum. In the first half of the year, up to 5,000 fled into Albania, most transiting to Kosovo. Another estimated 2,200 stayed temporarily with friends and family in Albania, and nearly all returned before year's end.

Throughout the crisis in neighboring Macedonia, Albania kept its borders open, and provided asylum seekers from Macedonia the opportunity to seek formal refuge. The Office for Refugees received 54 individual asylum requests from ethnic Albanians, of which 16 were granted temporary protection on humanitarian grounds, 2 were resettled to the United States, and 29 had pending applications at year's end. The remainder returned voluntarily to Macedonia late in the year.


From the height of the Kosovo crisis in 1999, when about 465,000 persons found temporary asylum in Albania, the number of Kosovar refugees in Albania at the end of 2001 had fallen to only 281 (another 4 new arrivals from Kosovo had pending asylum claims at year's end). Thirty-two particularly vulnerable refugees from Kosovo, including Roma, were awaiting offers of resettlement by countries outside the region at the end of 2001.

Border Controls

During the year, Albania continued to serve as a transit country for asylum seekers and migrants trying to reach Western Europe.

In April, the Parliament approved the Law on the Guarding and Control of State Borders. The new legislation provides for referral of asylum cases to the Office for Refugees and includes provisions that reiterate Albania's respect for the principle of non-refoulement and apply the principle to its border police authorities.

Treatment of migrants at Albania's borders remained somewhat unclear during 2001. Although formal readmission agreements do not exist, there appeared to be informal return agreements between Albanian border guards and their counterparts in Greece and Italy.


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