An estimated 8,200 Albanian were refugees abroad with 5,500 new asylum seekers in 2003. Albania has a functioning asylum system and hosted approximately 120 refugees and asylum seekers.

New domestic laws in the past few years have provided a variety of rights to asylum seekers and a regular referral mechanism of potential asylum seekers from border authorities to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for initial screening. The Albanian refugee agency makes final refugee status determinations, with appeal available. Of 17 decisions made last year, 13 cases were rejected, and in 4 cases, people were granted refugee or temporary humanitarian status. The government still lacks a process for issuing residence permits to those granted asylum.

The Albanian government tried to crack down on smugglers in return for an agreement from Italy for work permits for some migrants. In January 2004, a small boat with Albanians swamped off the coast of Italy and more than 20 died.


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