The Albanian ombudsman has recommended that the authorities proceed with renewing the residence permit of British journalist Alice Taylor.
In March of this year, Taylor had her residence permit renewal revoked and was slapped with a large penalty. She was also told she had to leave Albania and return to start the application from the beginning, despite being six months pregnant and unable to travel at the time.
The authorities refused for over two weeks to provide her with an official reason why her permit was refused, instead leaking her private information to the media and claiming she was in violation of the law.
Amongst other accusations, they claimed she did not appear at the office in person, did not have an employment contract, had not applied for the correct kind of permit, and missed the deadline of renewal. Taylor stated that this was not true and she was in hospital with serious complications relating to her pregnancy at the time of the deadline and that in accordance with law, her provision of the relevant medical documents allowed the renewal to take place. She added that despite being unwell and against doctor’s orders, she had attended the office twice before being told her partner could attend for her, due to her condition.
Despite this, the immigration police refused to issue the documents as well as refusing an administrative appeal lodged by Taylor. Officially they maintained that her hospitalization was not a sufficient reason to not attend the office in Laprakë, unofficially they used a number of other reasons to attempt to discredit Taylor’s person and personal life.
Yesterday the Ombudsman stated in a letter that Taylor’s application had been compliant and that her presentation of medical documents were in line with Albanian law. They added that the penalty issued was unlawful and should be removed so that her renewal can be issued
The police have 30 days to implement the recommendation, or the matter will proceed to court.
This news is a welcome victory for Taylor who always stuck by the fact that she had abided by all instructions given to her by the authorities and she was in accordance with law. She provided the ombudsman with all the relevant medical documents as well as copies of correspondence between herself and the immigration department and after months of investigation, the ombudsman concluded she was right.
Taylor had applied for renewal of her permit in February 2018 and upon submitting her medical certificates, was told by the Director of Immigration that it was approved. Days later, she was the victim of a smear campaign calling her a “Russian spy”, levied against her for her reporting on opposition protests and alleged government corruption, including vote rigging.
Shortly after the campaign against her started, she received a phone call from the immigration department stating that her permit had been revoked by “someone from above”, meaning more senior than the Director who had approved it.
The government denied revoking it for political reasons and Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj said it was due to legal issues at the fault of Taylor. In addition to this the Voice of America and other portals published incorrect information that the permit was refused for other reasons, but included private information that was illegally leaked from her file.
Mero Baze, who spearheaded the smear campaign against her, even implied it was for security reasons after accusing her of being a Russian spy.
Taylor is in the process of litigating against Baze, and the portals that conducted the illegal and defamatory smear campaign against both her and her partner.