It seems that I am one of two, female foreign residents who have been targeted by Albanian authorities for protesting corruption and other civil matters in Albania.
Last week, my residence permit approval was overturned by someone more senior than the Director of Immigration that had previously approved it. This was despite being told all was in order and having satisfied all of the legal and administrative requirements under Albanian law.
The unusual and irregular decision to revoke my permission was taken after I reported on the political situation in Albania on both local and international news portals. I also came under a barrage of coordinated attacks from media platforms who published false, defamatory, and illegal allegations against myself and my partner, leading the Council of Europe to denounce the whole situation as an attempt to intimidate and harass a journalist.
To date the authorities have refused to provide me with any official documentation, refusal, or reasons, therefore inhibiting me from appealing against the procedure, as well as putting them in breach of their own laws.
But I am not the only one who has had their rights illegally infringed by the incumbent socialist government for daring to publicly or otherwise criticise the political situation in Albania.
In 2016, Catherine Bohne, an American citizen, who like me, fell in love with Albania in a matter of hours and decided to make it her home, was illegally targeted as a result of her protests against hydropower plants in Valbona.
Having built a hotel in the area, she was dead against the plans and was involved in exposing a number of irregularities and illegalities as well as protesting and pursuing matters through legal recourse.
As a result, in 2016, she discovered that she was being pursued by the Immigration Police who were accusing her of being an unregistered immigrant- something that was not true. Bohne heard rumours that they had been bribed and instructed from above to do this, so she instructed a lawyer to assist her immediately.
Then, criminal charges were filed against her for so-called “dangerous threats” but the case was subsequently thrown out of court for being completely baseless in terms of facts. After failing to intimidate her into silence, the authorities then went after the Selimaj family who she had been living with for seven years, trying to find some irregularity and threatening them with charges and penalties despite them not being guilty of anything at all.
Lastly, the local electricity authority made a number of arrests for “meter-tampering and electricity theft” against business owners who just happened to be speaking up against the hydropower plant development. She was arrested and held for 72 hours whilst a media smear campaign by the same portals that attacked me, was launched against her.
In an article describing her ordeal, Bohne questions “How far can your average citizen go? How much can we expect of anyone, when we know what they will be subjected to? Who is willing to stand up, and who won’t? And why would they?”
These are valid points. I know many writers and journalists who are too scared to use their real names. I know others that refuse stories or avoid certain topics out of fear for their wellbeing. I know lawyers that will not go up against certain individuals for fear of their reputation being destroyed through media lies, and I know countless others that will not attend protests for the fear of what penalties could be imposed on them and their families.
I also know quite literally, tens of expats and foreign residents who are too scared to leave the house on days of protests including women’s marches, because they believe they will be targeted, discriminated, and have issues with their residence permits if they are spotted in the vicinity of any civil society action.
Targeting the legal right to reside, as well as taking other spurious and illegal measures against foreign women who protest seems to be something of a recurring trend.
Whilst citizens are on the whole, too scared to speak up, foreigners as well are being routinely attacked for exercising their right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom to assemble and protest.
– Alice Elizabeth Taylor