Results have been seen in the implementation of safeguards during pre-screening, including access to information and interpretation. Within a context of general betterment of pre-screening procedures, identification and case management of children and women at risk has substantially improved if compared with previous years. Reception capacity was doubled in 2017 and then again in 2018, with the EU funded extension of the National Reception Centre for Asylum, and the renovation of a municipal centre of Gjirokastra, and the availability of a Caritas centre in the northern border. UNHCR has continued its support to the National Reception Centre with provision of assistance benefitting asylum seekers, interpretation and increase of specialised staff, as well as a night shift.

UNHCR presence and monitoring at the border areas was strengthened throughout the year and remains key to ensure access to territory and asylum. UNHCR activities have included: i) provision of immediate material assistance to persons intercepted at the borders pending their pre-screening, ii) liaison with Border and Migration Police to guarantee access to pre- screening procedures and prevent informal returns, and iii) identification, referral and case management of persons with specific needs, particularly children at risk, medical cases, survivors of gender violence and LGBTI persons.

UNHCR and the People’s Advocate formalized the cooperation regarding border monitoring in November 2017, and one delegate was deployed to the southern border. By the end of 2018, two additional delegates should be performing similar rights monitoring functions in other two border areas.

UNHCR has prioritized the presence of partners at the borders, extending it from the southern to cover also the northern and eastern borders, given the increase of interception at entry and exit points of the country. This, given that the number of arrivals and asylum requests keeps increasing, stretching the capacities of UNHCR and partners to respond to needs of the persons of concern, including provision of assistance, transportation to the National Reception Centre for Asylum, interpretation and provision of free legal aid.

UNHCR has focused on improving identification of persons at risk of statelessness through an in-depth mapping conducted by Tirana Legal Aid Society (TLAS) in cooperation with Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Ministry of Education, INSTAT and Municipalities. 1,031 persons at risk of statelessness have been identified by local actors in only four months. TLAS, has provided free legal aid for civil registration of 344 persons at risk of statelessness. Out of these, 240 cases were solved. UNHCR and TLAS, have provided training on reduction of statelessness and civil documentation procedures to 311 civil registrars, which represents 52 % of the total number of civil registrars in Albania.

UNHCR, UNICEF and TLAS, in consultation with the General Directorate of Civil Status Office, have conducted the review of current law on Civil Registration in light of the findings and recommendations of the mapping and advocated for amendments for improving the registration of persons –notably children- at risk of statelessness in Albania. In October, the Albanian Parliament approved these amendments.

An overall review of the asylum system in relation to international and EU standards was undertaken through a Gap Analysis in 2017, which provides recommendations on all aspects of the system regarding legislation, administrative capacity and implementation. The Gap Analysis –which was consulted with relevant Ministries and partners- serves as a roadmap for UNHCR’s support to Albania, and for the advancement of legislation, policy development and capacity building.