Tirana, March 18 (Tirana Echo) – Albania’s top politicians have clashed over emigration policies in the small Balkan country crippled by massive departures of its citizens towards European and US destinations.
A day after Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said emigration can be a good thing and that Albanians are not the only ones to quit their country, President Ilir Meta said emigration was in fact a brain hemorrhage for the country.
“Unfortunately, the daily challenges of our countries in the current era of globalization are inspiring new waves of emigration towards the EU, especially of our qualified youth. This brain hemorrhage towards Europe is having worrying consequences for the future of our societies”, said Meta during an international conference in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Meta’s comments are seen in Albania as a direct rebuff of Prime Minister Rama’s speech a day earlier in Tirana.
“Even in EU countries such as Poland and Croatia, we see how people leave for the same reasons. Only last year, 50,000 people have left Croatia, 90% of which are youth. But in contrast to Albanian nationals, they are not registered as asylum seekers because they are considered as free labour moving around the EU for better employment and social integration”, said Rama during a migration conference in Tirana.
Rama added that Albanians today migrate for better employment opportunities and that everyone should be free to go and live wherever they please, while noting that asylum seeking numbers have decreased drastically.
“Who sees emigration as an evil for Albania is wrong. We have achieved a lot thanks to emigration, knowledge, experience and culture. There’s no country which has not passed through the emigration era”, said Rama.
EU countries have urged Albanian authorities to halt massive waves of Albanians seeking asylum across EU countries, most notably in Germany, France, Netherlands and the UK.
Two years ago German authorities faced a shocking influx of asylum seekers coming from Albania, with around 50,000 Albanians sought asylum in Germany in 2016, most fleeing poverty and lack of work in their homeland.
In 2017 Eurostat data showed that France had the highest asylum request rate of Albanians in Europe, prompting French and German authorities to sound the alarm bell on massive waves of Albanians seeking asylum.
Albanian citizens benefit from a visa-free regime in the Schenghen area and have an obligation to return to their homeland after 3 months stay in Schenghen territory, as chances to obtain asylum are very poor.
Albanian authorities have vowed to clamp down on illegal trafficking rings encouraging poor Albanians to exploit the EU generosity in social and health benefits.
“We are responsible for the freedom and responsibilities that come with free movement in the Schengen area and are obliged not to tolerate abusive requests for asylum,” Albania’s Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati said during a meeting with French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb in Tirana last year.
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