In these times, Albania represents one of the main countries of the Balkan Peninsula that deals with the asylum requests it receives with great efficiency. In fact, in September 2021, the government immediately approved refugee status for more than 100 people, whose cases were considered urgent. Likewise, in October of the same year, it allowed the permanence, in its territory, of around 9,000 people with temporary permits.
These figures are surprising, since throughout history Albanians have sought ways to flee to more economically and politically stable countries. However, thanks to changes in government and financial strategies, it is now a nation with great growth and exploitation of natural resources, such as chrome, coal, nickel and copper. Reasons why foreigners from different continents have turned to this country to start a new life.
Therefore, Albania, despite its limitations, works hard to improve the inclusion of people seeking international refuge. Hence, in February 2021, it adopted a new law on asylum, which is based on standards used by the European Union (EU). It defines the methods and procedures that apply in different scenarios and the associated benefits, with the purpose of making a correct distribution of resources for that purpose.
First considerations to apply for aid in Albania
First of all, keep in mind that, to apply for asylum in Albania, you must make the request right at the moment you enter the country through any of its borders, even if you do not have the documents for legal access, without paying any penalty. However, those who use unauthorized means can only present the case to the Border and Migration Police, within a maximum period of 10 days.
Now, disobeying the deadlines indicates to the Albanian system that the individual is an irregular immigrant or tourist in the country, which means that the authorities require you to leave the territory within a period of 30 days. Therefore, it is essential to go to the competent authorities as soon as possible to announce the need to be protected.
The second aspect to consider is that Albania only provides humanitarian aid to people who have reasonable grounds to leave their country of origin. This means that for the system a refugee is someone who is persecuted, threatened and violated in their nation, whether due to race, religion, nationality, political ideas, gender, etc. Issues related to economic crises, for example, are not valid arguments for protection.
Procedure for making an asylum request in Albania
Once you are in Albanian territory and go to the immigration offices or the police, according to your form of entry into the country, the steps to follow are:
Step 1. Application and registration
To start the international protection process, you must fill out and submit a written asylum application form, which is addressed to the Tirana Asylum and Citizenship Directorate. This format collects both your personal data and that of your relatives, as well as the main reasons why you have left the country of origin and why you have considered Albania for help.
On the other hand, you must deliver any document that identifies you such as identity card, identification card, passport, birth or marriage certificate, driver’s license, etc. In addition, provide the evidence that supports what is declared in the form, such as official letters, videos, photographs and audios.
Later, you will be assigned to the National Reception Center for Asylum Seekers, where you will be able to live while the process is resolved, which is an optional benefit. Therefore, if you have another place to stay, you just have to indicate it to the officials. If you do not speak the Albanian language, keep in mind that you have the right to an interpreter whenever you need it.
Step 2. Interview
In this second phase is where you must explain in detail the reasons why you are requesting asylum in Albania. For this, you will receive a notification, as soon as possible, at the reception center or declared place of residence, so that you can present yourself at the offices of the Tirana Asylum and Citizenship Directorate.
It is the crucial meeting for the decision of the case, so you must clearly express to the official the reasons that led you to leave your country, you are afraid to return and, therefore, seek protection; of course, being consistent with what is stated in the form. Do not omit any details, since they are handled with strict confidentiality and any aspect can add value to the case. Afterward, you can demand a copy of the interview statement.
Step 3. case decision
After the interview, the Asylum and Citizenship Directorate will evaluate all the information provided for the asylum request, and will announce to you through an official letter whether or not they grant you refugee status. To do this, the agency has a period of six months, which starts from the day of the interview. However, there is the option of an extension of up to 15 more months, which would be communicated to you shortly. Once the verdict is defined, they will report in five days.
- Positive answer. Here the government has granted some type of protection within Albania and therefore they will announce all the rights you have since then, in accordance with the provisions of the country’s Asylum Law. Identification documents, work and business permits are some of them.
- Negative answer. In this case, the officials have determined some inconsistency in the information or decided that the elements presented do not align with international protection. If you do not agree with the decision, then you can opt for an appeal, in a period not exceeding 15 days from the date you received the notification. If the answer continues to be unfavorable, you can take the case to the higher courts, who will have the final decision, which you must abide by.
Rights and duties as an asylum seeker
If you have applied for international protection in Albania through due process before the authorities, which we mentioned in the last section, then you have to know your rights and duties. They will be communicated to you when you complete the registration, and are listed below:
|Not be returned to your country of origin, or to any other nation where your life is threatened.||Provide accurate and true information about the case to immigration authorities.|
|Receive accommodation, food, clothing and hygiene items. As well as information and legal advice at the reception center.||Attend interviews and meetings related to your asylum application case, on time.|
|To request a qualified native language interpreter during the asylum procedure (registration, interviews, etc.).||Submit all relevant documents that help identify and verify your identity.|
|To be represented free of charge by an attorney.||Inform the authorities of the current address, and announce any changes that occur during the asylum application process.|
|Receive identification documents and temporary residence permits while asylum procedures are under review.||Have a medical check-up, at the request of the competent health authority.|
|Request a work permit.||Respect the laws and authorities of Albania.|
|To be part of the educational system at all initial levels.|
|Access public health.|
Undoubtedly, Albania works to provide better life opportunities for both its inhabitants and foreigners who come to the country for different reasons, even more so those who request refuge. Thanks to this, the percentage of Albanians who are forced to leave their nation is less and less, and rather they are motivated to work for it. So if you are a victim of persecution, violence or discrimination you can start the process in this territory.