Ad campaign in Albania: German embassy warns against ‘economic asylum’

The Roma minority in Albania is heavily discriminated against. [Attila Hargitay/Flickr]

Germany is a main target country for Albanian asylum seekers. Now, the German embassy in Tirana is warning potential refugees in Albanian newspapers of traffickers and profiteers. Der Tagesspiegel reports.

“Ne Gjermani nuk ka Azil ekonomik,” is in capital letters on the ads that appeared in six large Albanian newspapers this week – “no economic asylum in Germany”. The large-scale campaign is Germany’s reaction to the growing flood of asylum seekers from Albania. In six papers, including the most widely read Shekulli and Shqip, the German embassy in Tirana is warning Albanians of “scrupulous profiteers” who “spread fairytales of asylum granted, employment and apartments in Germany out of greed for profit”.

The campaign resembles one launched by Austria in February in Kosovar media. Sizeable waves of people are also fleeing from Kosovo and other Western Balkan countries to Europe. But by now, Albania has become the “main problem country” among German asylum authorities. The number of asylum applicants is growing rapidly. The acceptance quota is exceptionally low. Last year, the so-called protection rate was at 2.2% and so far this year it is only at 0.6%.

According to information from the Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), nearly half of all Albanian asylum applicants in Europe submitted their application in Germany. The Federal Republic received 7,865 first-time applications from Albanians and 248 applications for renewal. In May of this year, Albania was the main country of origin among asylum applications. There were 4,743 first-time requests. As a comparison, there were 4,319 applications from Kosovars and 4,224 from Syrians. In security circles, reports indicate that bus companies from Kosovo have established themselves in northern Albania and offer cheap travel to Germany, often making false promises such as chances of immediate employment.

With a real per capita income of €280 per month, Albania is among the poorest countries of Europe. Its official unemployment rate is 18%. The country is also fighting significant corruption issues. As a result, temptations to obtain a residence permit for economic reasons in Germany or other European are high. More recently, well-educated members of the middle class have begun to leave the country as well.

“Albania needs young people”

Already at the beginning of May, the BAMF shifted its original prognosis for this year’s asylum applications upwards and indicated the growing number of applications from Albania. At that time, president of the BAMF Manfred Schmidt said the “biggest inflow of asylum seekers from Albania” was not initially foreseeable.

The German Ambassador in Tirana, Hellmut Hoffmann, commented on the new ad campaign. “We have repeatedly observed that many Albanians set out for Germany on the basis of false information. We are attempting to counteract this with facts and explanations on the actual legal situation.” Meanwhile, the embassy is also informing people of legal opportunities to move to Germany and seek work there, he indicated. “It is in the common interest of German and Albanian authorities to prevent an increasing number of people from turning their backs on their home. Albania especially needs its young people to bring the country forward.”

“Many are lured by trafficking gangs”

A few days ago, BAMF president Schmidt went to the Albanian capital of Tirana to get his own impression of the situation in the country. Speaking about the newly launched ad campaign, he told Tagesspiegel, “Hardly any Albanian asylum applicants who come to us are being persecuted in his country.” That is why Albanians have practically no prospect of refugee protection in Germany. “Many are lured to Germany by organised trafficking gangs with false promises,” Schmidt said. Asylum authorities are planned to be able to process asylum applications from Albania more quickly thanks to the ad campaign. “In Kosovo’s case we were able to lower migration with similar measures. We should also be able to achieve this with Albania.”

In the German embassy’s ads in Albanian newspapers, it sounds slightly less diplomatic. “Asylum applications submitted in Germany for economic reasons are rejected on principle,” it says. “Poverty, illness or seeking work are not recognised as justification”. Opportunities to take on employment in Germany are offered exclusively to recognised academics and qualified skilled workers in specific professional fields.

The embassy’s drastic warning continued, saying that individuals who are deported are prohibited entry into Germany and the Schengen area for several years. “Do not ruin your children’s futures by giving up your livelihood in your current place of residence! Your situation will only be more difficult when you return to Albania.”

Kosovo declared independence in February 2008, and 22 EU member states have recognized it so far. Kosovo has approximately two million inhabitants, predominantly Albanian.

In October 2013, the European Union initiated negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo, which will enable the first contractual relationship between the two sides. The agreement was initialed in July 2014.

The agreement is to be signed soon.

In May 2012, Brussels launched a structural dialogue on the rule of law with Pristina, as the dialogue on liberalizing the visa regime for Kosovo citizens officially kicked off several months prior, in January.

The European Union has a judicial and police mission in Kosovo, EULEX.

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