Dozens of thousand Albanians applied for asylum in Europe last year, the impact

Dozens of thousand Albanians applied for asylum in Europe last year, the impact

  A report published this week by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, shows France emerged as the top destination for Albanian asylum seekers, overtaking Germany, the top destination of the overwhelming majority of Albanian asylum applicants in the previous three years.

First-time Albanian asylum-seekers filed 11,395 applications in France in 2017 ranking the top asylum-seekers by citizenship there, a sharp increase compared to 2016.

Germany had only 3,775 applications by new Albanian asylum seekers, about a quarter of the number in 2016 and 14 times less compared to the 2015 exodus to Germany. Europe’s largest economy, Germany was the destination of 15,000 Albanian asylum seekers in 2016, down from a record 54,000 in 2015.

Neighboring Greece, the host of about half a million Albanian migrants, was the surprise third most important destination of Albanian asylum seekers with 2,345 first-time applications in 2017. Dozens of thousands of Albanians have left Greece in the past decade as it experienced its worst-ever recession, to either go to wealthier European nations or permanently move to Albania.

Albanians were the third main asylum-seekers by citizenship in Ireland with 280 applications and ranked second in Iceland with 255 applications, says Eurostat.

Albania’s asylum exodus began in 2014, only to hit a record high of about 66,000 in 2015 when Germany placed Albania on the safe countries of origin and started applying fast-track processing of what was described as unfounded applications from EU candidate and NATO member Albania.

EU member countries, mainly the UK, France and Germany granted asylum status to only about 1,780 Albanians in 2015 and 2016 out of a total applications of about 95,000, Eurostat says.

The lower number of asylum seekers in 2017 is also related to tighter border controls Albanian authorities applied following warnings of possible visa reintroductions by France and the Netherlands.

Albanians have enjoyed visa-free travel to the Schengen Area since late 2010. An EU-candidate since mid-2014, Albania is hoping to launch accession talks with the European Commission this year as a long-awaited judiciary reform is underway.

Obvious reasons for Albanian citizens leaving their home country include high unemployment, small income which in some cases is lower than the social benefits as asylum seekers in Germany, lack of trust in state institutions perceived as corrupt and inefficient, real or perceived lack of job perspectives and unrealistic expectations compared to income in Western European countries, primarily Germany, according to a study conducted Tirana-based Cooperation and Development Institute.

Impact on economy

The high number of asylum seekers in the past four years, the ongoing legal migration and a sharp decline in birth rates have sparked concerns over a rapidly shrinking population with negative impacts for the country’s developing economy of 2.8 million residents, already suffering one of the world’s highest per capita migration with 1.5 million Albanians living and working abroad.

Data published by state-run statistical institute, INSTAT, shows some 40,000 Albanians left Albania in 2017 and 25,000 permanently moved to the country, leading to a gap of about 15,000 people.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has described migration as a normal phenomenon also affecting EU member countries such as Poland, Croatia but also southern Italy, which in Albania’s case is reflected on asylum-seeking due to the country not being an EU member yet and not enjoying free flow of workers.

“Last year alone, some 50,000 people left EU member Croatia, 90 percent of whom young men and women. But differently from Albanians or others who are still unintegrated in the free labor market, they are not recorded anywhere as asylum seekers, because they are free labor forces who move for better employment opportunities and a chance to get integrated into the society of a more developed EU country,” Prime Minister Rama told a recent conference on migration.

However, some experts have attributed the high level of migration from Albania to the tough rule of law reforms the country has undertaken in the past five years, especially with electricity and tax evasion, often targeting the poorest.

The contribution of migrants through remittances on Albania’s economy has almost halved during the past decade fuelled by recession in Italy and Greece, the host of about 1 million Albanian migrants.

Remittances slightly recovered for the third year in a row in 2016 when they climbed to €616 million, but remained about a third below their peak level of €952 million in 2007 just before the onset of the global financial crisis, according to the country’s central bank.

The Albanian economy has been growing by 1 to 3 percent since 2009 following a pre-crisis decade of 6-percent annually, a growth rate estimated to bring tangible growth for Albanian households.

Recovering growth of 3 to 4 percent in the past couple of years was fuelled by two large energy-related projects and the emerging tourism industry.

German dream

With only few applicants managing to get asylum, more and more Albanians have turned to studying German language in the past couple of years, joining a Western Balkan trend of preparing to integrate into the German labor market and escaping high unemployment and low-income jobs in their home countries.

Repatriated asylum-seekers are also among the German language students in Albania’s main cities as they plan to move to Germany legally through employment contracts.

Opportunities have increased as what non-qualified workers need is only an employment contract and no proven language skills.

Since early 2016, Germany has been applying easier work visa procedures for the Western Balkans, with its citizens required to having an employment contract as the only condition to be provided with visa.

Doctors and nurses are also among those who have left the country, leaving many hospitals with a shortage of experts.
Dozens of thousand Albanians applied for asylum in Europe last year, the impact Dozens of thousand Albanians applied for asylum in Europe last year, the impact Thursday, March 22, 2018 Rating: 5
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