German dream sours for thousands of Albanian would-be migrants

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 31, 2015 10:17

Story Highlights

  • About 22,000 Albanians who have tried to migrate to Germany since the beginning of the year.

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In the hopes of stemming the tide of asylum seekers from Albania, Germany wants to designate the small Balkan republic as a ‘safe country,’ which makes it possible for German authorities to quickly deport thousands of people deemed to be economic migrants

Official numbers show more than 70,000 Albanians left the country for over six months in the past year. (Photo: Archives)

Official numbers show more than 70,000 Albanians left the country for over six months in the past year. (Photo: Archives)

TIRANA, July 29 – Kosta, an 18-year-old with sun-bleached blond hair and tanned skin, sits in a minivan on his way back to his hometown of Korça as he tells his story.

He finished high school earlier this summer, borrowed €1,000 from his parents and promptly traveled to Germany with friends, seeking a better life the only way available to him – by making an unfounded asylum claim.

“Everybody will be forced to come back,” Kosta says, a few days after being deported back to Albania. “Unless they have schooling or trade skills, getting a job over there seemed impossible.”

Kosta, who refused to give his real name to a reporter, is one of about 22,000 Albanians who have tried to migrate to Germany since the beginning of the year.

Their goal is to find a better life, not safety, German officials say, thus they don’t qualify for asylum, something designated for those escaping persecution in their home countries.

In the hope to stem a tide of asylum seekers from Albania, Germany wants to designate the small Balkan republic as a “safe country,” a designation that would make it possible for German authorities to quickly deport thousands of Albanians who have sought asylum in the northern European country, but who Berlin has deemed to be economic migrants.

Charter planes will start to fly hundreds of failed asylum seekers back to Albania by the end of the week, officials told the local media.

German Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann said this week Albanians should stop looking for asylum in Germany as their hopes of obtaining it are zero.

Albanians have increasingly flocked to Germany and other northern European countries, bringing worries among Albanian officials that the trend will endanger the visa-free regime Albania enjoys with most of Europe since 2010.

Hoffman said migration from the Western Balkan countries is becoming a concern for Berlin, as the numbers have grown.

“During the first six months of this year, 65,000 people have gone to Germany from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia. About 22,000 are from Albania alone. Only in June, 6,000 people from Albania asked for asylum,” Hoffmann said.

He added Germany would speed up the procedures of repatriation within four weeks.

“All these citizens will be repatriated, and they have no chances to stay,” the ambassador said.

Last week, a charter brought home 40 Albanians from Spain, Germany and France. This week, another group of 70 people were deported from Germany.

All these Albanian citizens will be banned from traveling to the Schengen area for the next five years, officials said.

For Kosta, the failed young asylum seeker, the travel ban seems to be of little deterrence.

“I heard France was granting a lot of the asylum claims. Maybe I ought to give it another shot there. God knows what’s next,” he says, touching the cross on his neck nervously.

But he has little regret for his failed attempt.

“At least I got to see some of the world,” the teenager says.

Official numbers show more than 70,000 Albanians left the country for over six months in the past year, continuing a massive migration trend that has left the country’s resident population dwindling to record lows.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 31, 2015 10:17