TIRANA (13 December 2011) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, urged* Albania to further ensure the protection of the rights of Albanian migrants living abroad or returning, as well as arriving foreigners. He also called on the European Union to focus sharply on human rights to help Albania’s path towards European integration.
“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,” Mr. Crépeau said at the end of his nine-day fact-finding visit to the country.
As a first step, the expert encouraged the Government to continue strengthening a reliable data collection regarding Albanians abroad and returnees, and foreigners in Albania that can serve as dependable foundations for rights-based policy-making.
“An estimated third of Albania’s population live outside of its borders. The biggest diasporas live in Greece and in Italy, with or without regular status,” the Special Rapporteur noted, pointing out to capacity, resources and expertise challenges of Albanian consular offices to respond adequately to the needs and rights of Albanian migrants living and working abroad. He welcomed information that strengthening consular services is a Government priority.
“I was informed of challenges in ensuring birth registration of children born of Albanian citizens, especially when parents are in an irregular situation,” Mr. Crépeau said, drawing special attention to the rights of children, persons deprived of their liberty and the protection of social rights.
“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.”
The Special Rapporteur expressed further concern about the situation of Albanians abroad who face criminal proceedings or are deprived of their liberty, including children, noting that their legal defence is often poor, leading to unfair convictions and/or excessive sentences. “I highly recommend the Government of Albania to strengthen the number, staffing and expertise of its consular offices to respond to the multiple needs of Albanians abroad.”
“The Government of Albania should intensify its efforts to assist and reach out to Albanians returnees, regardless of whether their return is voluntary or forced,” Mr. Crépeau said. Recent economic growth and reduction in poverty in Albania, coupled with the economic crisis in neighbouring countries, has prompted many Albanians abroad to return.
The Special Rapporteur acknowledged the efforts made by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities to address the situation and recommended that further action be taken to reach out to Albanian returnees who are in greatest need of support.
Due to its geographical proximity to the European Union, Albania is a country of transit and, increasingly, a country for irregular migration, although still on a small scale. The Special Rapporteur stressed the importance of preparing for the number of foreign migrants increasing as the Albanian economy grows.
“The conditions of circular migration of the Roma population with neighbouring States should be given particular attention as their social status renders them vulnerable to exploitation,” the expert said. “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.”
Mr. Crépeau also encouraged the European Union to strengthen the human rights component of its technical assistance to Albania on her path towards European integration. “To ensure sustainability of all efforts,” he said, “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.”
François Crépeau (Canada) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in June 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three years. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Crépeau is also Full Professor at the Faculty of Law of McGill University, in Montréal, where he holds the Hans and Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law and is scientific director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism.
(*) Read the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11707&LangID=E
Learn more about the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and activities, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/migration/rapporteur/index.htm
Check the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cmw.htm
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