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News 01 Aug 17

Flow of Albanians Seeking Asylum Worries France

Since last November, the number of Albanians seeking asylum in France has exceeded that seeking asylum in Germany, prompting worried French authorities to urge Albania to halt the flow.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
French and Belgian authorities sending back Albanian asylum seekers. Photo: State Police

Albanian increasingly see France as their preferred destination to seek asylum in a time where their first destination of choice, Germany seems determined to reject almost every request coming from Albanian citizens.

The latest Eurostat data show that during 2017, France had the highest asylum request rate of Albanians in Europe. In January alone, 1,030 Albanians sought asylum in France, while in February the number was 880, in March 1,200 and in April 1,170.

The numbers are almost twice as big as the number of requests by Albanians for asylum in Germany. From January to June 2017, around 500 Albanians requested asylum there per month – but most have been turned down.

Since November, for the first time, the number of Albanians seeking asylum in France has surpassed the number for Germany.

Repeated repatriations of Albanians from Germany may also have motivated Albanians to seek other destinations where they believe their chances are better.

The chances of Albanians obtaining asylum in France are now very poor, however. This was underlined during a meeting on July 27 between Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati and French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb.

The two ministers discussed a joint plan to curb the flow of asylum seekers to France within the next three months.

"We are responsible for the freedom and responsibilities that come with free movement in [the] Schengen [area] and are obliged not to tolerate abusive requests for asylum," Bushati said.

One of the joint measures planned is to deploy French officers in Albania in order to conduct operations together with the Albanian border police.

On June 26, meanwhile, 31 Albanians were repatriated from France and Belgium to Tirana. Aida Hajnaj, the director of border and migration, said Albanians have to clear that the chances of winning asylum to France are almost zero.

During 2015 and 2016, German authorities faced an influx of asylum seekers coming from Albania. During 2016 alone, around 50,000 Albanians sought asylum in Germany, most fleeing povert and lack of work in their homeland.

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