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News 20 Oct 16

Albanian Asylum-Seeker Numbers in Germany Rise Again

More Albanians are again seeking aslyum in Germany, a year after Berlin listed Albania as a 'safe country of origin', though overall numbers have fallen since 2015.

Fatjona Mejdini, Vincent Triest
BIRN
Tirana
A refugees camp in Germany. Photo: BIRN

The number of Albanians requesting asylum spiked once again in September, after numbers fell in the first part of 2016. 

A year exactly after Berlin acted to curb the numbers, by declaring Albania a safe country, the phenomenon of thousands people seeking asylum each month has started to emerge again. 

According to the EU statistics agency Eurostat, in September 2016, the number of Albanians seeking asylum to Germany rose to 2,250, the highest monthly figure this year.

The number of Albanians seeking asylum in January 2016 was only 1,200. It dropped further in March to only 825.

But numbers started to rise again in summer, hitting 1,390 in July, 1,635 in August and then 2,250 in September.

The total number seeking asylum in Germany from January to September was 11,895. However, during the same period of time in 2015, the number seeking asylum was 44,325, almost four times higher - which shows a sharp decline, year on year.

Referring to the same Eurostat data, 890 citizens of Macedonia sought asylum in Germany in September for the first time, while 565 people from Kosovo did so.

Roland Lami, a sociologist, and professor at the European University of Tirana, told BIRN that the difficult economic situation in Albanian was again driving people to go abroad at any cost, even if their chances of success in claiming asylum were near zero.

"The instinct for survival is stronger than the power of reason. A large number of people in Albania live below the minimum conditions they need survive, so what is more important for them is to survive than calculate the chances of winning asylum rights in Germany," he said.

"Escaping from misery is their main aim despite the costs and the risks that this journey has for them," he added.

One year ago, on October 24, 2015, Germany listed Albania as a safe country of origin, which meant that from then on it would refuse almost all asylum requests from that country. It has since returned tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to Albania.

The German embassy in Tirana announced that 820 Albanian citizens were sent home only during June 2016, while the repatriation process continues.

The Netherlands is the now second most popular country for Albanians seeking asylum. In the first nine months of 2016, according to Eurostat date, 1,360 Albanian citizens asked for asylum in Holland.

The Dutch government is due to launch an awareness campaign in Albania to remind people that they cannot gain asylum in this country on economic or other invalid grounds.

During 2016, according to the same data, the UK emerged as the third country of choice for Albanians.

During the nine first months of this year, 985 Albanians sought asylum in the UK. Most entered the country illegally, mainly through ports in France and The Netherlands.

Iceland also emerged in 2016 as a destination for asylum-seekers from the Balkan countries. Some 140 citizens from Albania did so in the nine first months of this year, as did 45 Macedonians.

Albanians started leaving the country en masse to ask for asylum in the second half of 2014, when the international crisis over migrants from the Middle East also began reaching its peak.

Brussels has repeatedly told Kosovo and Albania to stop their nationals from heading into the EU for the purpose of lodging pointless asylum claims.

However, while the issue is an irritant, it is dwarfed by the far bigger problem of mass migration from the Middle East and Africa. More than a million refugees entered Germany last year alone.

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