A United Nations human rights expert today urged Albania to step up its efforts to protect the rights of its citizens living abroad as well as foreigners arriving to the country who are vulnerable to exploitation.
“I encourage the Albanian authorities to develop and implement, in partnership with all sectors of society, a national human rights strategy that places the rights and well-being of everyone, including migrants, at the heart of all laws, policies and programmes,” said Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, in a statement issued in Tirana, the Albanian capital.
An estimated third of Albania’s population live outside its borders, with the largest number living in Greece and Italy, many of them without a regular status, making it essential for the Albanian consular offices to have the capacity, resources and expertise to respond adequately to the needs and rights of Albanian migrants living and working abroad, the Rapporteur noted.
“I was informed of challenges in ensuring birth registration of children born of Albanian citizens, especially when parents are in an irregular situation,” said Mr. Crépeau, who recently finished a nine-day fact-finding visit to the country.
“Every child has the right to be registered immediately after birth, acquire a name and a nationality. It is unacceptable that children be born into statelessness in today’s Europe,” he stressed. “Both Albania and host countries should consider urgent measures to address this situation.”
Mr. Crépeau also expressed concern about the situation of Albanians living abroad who face criminal proceedings or are deprived of their liberty, including children, as their legal defence is often poor, leading to unfair convictions and excessive sentences.
In addition, Mr. Crépeau said the Government should make it a priority to assist Albanian returnees, which have increased in recent years due to the economic crisis in neighbouring countries coupled with the economic growth and poverty reduction in Albania.
“The Government of Albania should intensify its efforts to assist and reach out to Albanian returnees, regardless of whether their return is voluntary or forced,” he said.
Mr. Crépeau emphasized that as Albania’s economy grows, the Government will also have to prepare for an increase in foreign migrants, and ensure their rights are protected and they are not vulnerable to exploitation.
“There is urgent need to sensitize all sectors of society on the human rights of migrants and about the responsibility of the State to respect, protect, fulfil and promote their rights,” he said.
Mr. Crépeau also encouraged the European Union (EU) to strengthen the human rights component of its technical assistance to Albania to support its path towards European integration.
“I invite the EU to consider a specific programme for supporting the national human rights protection system, and the protection of the human rights of migrants in particular,” he said.