Albanians angry over suggestion EU talks tied to taking bloc’s unwanted refugees

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 21, 2018 15:42

Albanians angry over suggestion EU talks tied to taking bloc’s unwanted refugees

TIRANA, June 21 – As word that Albania will be the country to host Middle East refugees unwanted in Europe has increasingly spread over the last week, Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Socialist government remains silent, while experts and the population alike have strongly condemned the possibility.

Deputy Interior Minister Julian Hodaj, in an interview for German media ZDF, said the country has the capacity and experience to accept 600,000 refugees, in context of Rama’s previous readiness to help the EU with its growing refugee number during a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

Trustworthy media sources from both France and Germany have also reported on the plan, originally proposed by Austria and so far backed in principle by the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, while European Council President Donald Tusk has proposed Albania and Tunisia as the two main potential hosting countries, according to Politico.eu.

Former Prime Minister Pandeli Majko called the spread news fake and an attempt to create unrest in the country, but also added that if the condition to join the EU is accepting its refugees, than Albania would be better off without EU membership, as it would change its social construct.

“If there is any European leaders considering inviting Albania to open negotiations with the condition of accepting and opening refugee camps, than this ‘invite’ better not come at all … as it would not be an invitation, let alone a European one. I am sure Brussels cannot ask for a country and its people to change its social structure by compromising its national security and beyond,” Majko said in an interview.

Meanwhile, the government has denied all reports on the issue, calling them fake news.

Word on Rama’s offer first spread about two weeks ago, during his visit to Austria to tell Kurz, among other things, of the problems Albania is recently facing with an increasing number of refugees passing through the country in order to reach EU member states.

Kurz, on the other hand, has said that “we have long suggested to provide protection to immigrants outside the EU, in a place where they can be protected but unable to decide on their destination.”

Rama’s offer to use Albania for this exact purpose has been considered by a number of local media to be a political maneuver aiming to ensure EU support as the country awaits the opening of accession negotiations.

Although official statements have yet to back the reports, this would not be the first time Rama makes offers of this nature.

Rama has previously followed similar tactics by voluntarily offering to disassemble Syrian chemical weapons – a project that never saw the light of day due to popular disapproval – and by hosting around 3,000 Iranian Mujahideen fighters who were left threatened when the US government withdrew from Iraq.

In a joint press conference after his meeting with Kurz in Austria on May 30, Rama said that “we are ready to offer all our capacities to ensure border safety on the one hand and a dignified treatment of human beings on the other in this cooperation. In this respect, I repeat what the Chancellor said, that I am sure we have all possibilities and the right plan to prevent a similar situation as in 2015, which was dramatic for us all.”

While in Austria, Rama also said the number of illegal immigrants in Albania during January-May 2018 reached a record of 2,311 people, compared to 162 illegal immigrants this period last year.

However, opposition-friendly media was quick to point out that Rama’s numbers are exaggerated, as according to the International Organization for Migration, the official institution responsible of collecting immigration data, only 1,180 immigrants were registered in Albania so far this year.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 21, 2018 15:42