Albania has approved a new law that is set to improve the rights of asylum seekers and bring existing frameworks closer to the EU acquis.
The bill was approved by the Assembly on Monday with 87 votes in favor, 10 against, and 6 abstentions.
The EU Delegation reacted to the news, praising the Albanian authorities.
“The new asylum law adopted yesterday brings Albania closer to international standards and EU law on the important issue of adequate management of refugees and migrants entering Albanian territory.”
They said that the new law will ensure asylum seekers have access to the asylum procedure and that the processing of applications will be conducted in a regulated manner, providing more guarantees for the treatment of vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied minors.
It also reinforces the framework for the integration of refugees. The law foresees an expedited procedure for the rapid assessment of applications when conditions are met.
The EU’s statement concluded by noting that “the Albanian authorities have worked closely with the EU and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on its adoption. The EU and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will continue to work with the authorities to ensure that forthcoming regulations and effective law enforcement are in line with international and EU standards.”
The law will give asylum seekers the right to move freely from the moment the request is filed Furthermore, free legal aid will be guaranteed by the state, and individuals with refugee status will be able to apply for Albanian citizenship via naturalisation.
In recent months, there have been issues with Albania’s adherence to existing asylum processed. Most notably, the case of Harun Celik who was caught in Albania with forged documents trying to escape alleged persecution in Turkey. Despite trying to apply for asylum, he was refused and deported to Turkey against all national and international laws and best practices.
The Ombudsman noted the government violated all relevant laws in this process and the EU sought to remind the state of their human rights obligations. The United Nations said that Albania was complicit in extraterritorial abductions and enforced disappearance of Turkish nationals.
Selami Simsek who was traveling with Celik had his asylum request refused and is now waiting to find out if he will be sent back to Turkey.
Both men are alleged Gulenists, a group that Turkey has deemed a “terrorist organisation.”
At the start of January, EU border guards Frontex were accused of illegally pushing back refugees and migrants who tried to enter Albania. Some who tried to apply for asylum claimed they were told they couldn’t due to COVID-19 and were sent back to Greece without the Greek authorities being notified.
In October, Exit interviewed an individual involved in transporting migrants from Greece to Tirana and then onwards to an EU Member State. They told Exit that those that are caught in Albania are interviewed by the police, then taken back and dropped over the border with Greece. They added that those that are pushed back, try again and are often back in Albania 24 hours later.