From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
EU Reminds Albania of Human Rights Obligations regarding Deportation of Harun Çelik

The EU Delegation in Tirana has said that the Albanian government should follow legal procedures and its international obligations in relation to the deportation of Turkish citizen Harun Çelik.

Answering questions sent by Exit, they said that while they are unable to comment on individual judicial proceedings, Albania should remember that it is a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention.

EUD spokesperson said: “We expect Albania to uphold principles of judicial process and its international obligations, notably under the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention.”

The United Nations Geneva Refugee Convention, which Albania has ratified, outlines the definition of the terms “refugee” and “asylum” and details the legal obligations of the State to protect them. Its core concept is non-refoulement which specifies that a person must not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life of freedom. This, says the convention “is now considered a rule of customary international law”.

The Convention states:

“Refugees should not be penalised for their illegal entry or stay. This recognises that the seeking of asylum can require refugees to breach immigration or criminal offences relating to the seeking of asylum, or being arbitrarily detained purely on the basis of seeking asylum.

It also contains provisions and safeguards against the expulsion of such persons, noting that no one should be expelled or returned to a country “against his or her will, in any manner whatsoever, to a territory where he or she fears threats to life or freedom.”

Turkish citizen Harun Çelik was deported from Albania on 1 January after being detained for five months for entering the country with a fake passport. His lawyer claims he tried to claim asylum but was denied, and he was deported without having a chance to appeal the decision in an administrative court.

Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj claimed on a TV show that Çelik’s attempt to seek asylum verbally was not in line with the Albanian law.

“Requests for asylum cannot be verbal. Requests for asylum are written, and I am not aware of any such document [by Çelik].”

This is not true as Art.3/b of Law 121/2014 “On Asylum in the Republic of Albania” states the request for asylum can be made in any way- verbally or written.

“A “request for asylum” is any statement by a foreign citizen or someone without citizenship,– that is expressed in any way and at any time before the responsible authorities at the border crossing points or inside the territory of the Republic of Albania– who requests international protection in accordance with international conventions and Albanian law.”

The deportation has been condemned by a number of MEPs, the Council of Europe rapporteur to Albania, amongst others.