The re-prioritization of UNHCR’s protection interventions in Albania in light of increased mixed movements and the tenfold increase of asylum applications (as of end of September 2018) has resulted in increased cooperation with Border and Migration Police, thereby improving access to territory and asylum and the conduction of pre-screening. Services provided by partners have been essential in increasing the protection at borders –including identification of persons with specific protection needs- and the referrals to the asylum system of persons seeking asylum. Advocacy for the inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers in the existing national protection systems, particularly of children and women at risk has been also undertaken. Partnership with the Ombudsperson has resulted in the institution’s presence in the southern border, and has resulted in institutional monitoring and dialogue to ensure a rights-based response in State structures.
UNHCR has supported the Ministry of Interior, and specifically Border and Migration Police, with local consultations regarding revision of pre-screening procedures. Further to an OSCE report, an agreement in mid-2018 was reached to review the current Pre-Screening Instruction, which is currently been undertaken jointly with OSCE and the Ministry structures.
Stronger coordination between the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health and Social Protection, and Child Protection units was required to ensure that asylum seeking children and refugee women would receive appropriate treatment. UNHCR’s coordination with key actors resulted in child protection units and social services departments taking a more active role during pre-screening, and identification and referral of unaccompanied minors has substantially improved. Taking the opportunities provided by the new Law of Children´s Right, UNHCR has strongly advocated to have the needs of children on the move addressed through the national case management system.
UNHCR monitoring role during refugee status determination procedures remains instrumental to adequate assessments, notably with sufficient country of origin information and taking into consideration all material elements of the claims.
Support to State structures responsible for reception has resulted in specialised social, psychosocial and medical services being available at the national reception facility, and in better identification and treatment of persons with protection needs. UNHCR supported the government in doubling the capacity at the reception centre for asylum seekers and a specific facility close to the border for vulnerable cases. UNHCR’s partner Caritas added reception capacity for additional 120 persons in the northern border. In short, in 2017, the existing reception capacity had been doubled, and in 2018, this was doubled again to reach a total of 380 places.
The publication of a baseline study of the risk of statelessness in Albania, that was preceded by extensive consultation with governmental institutions, along with concrete recommendations, was fundamental in raising political and citizen’s awareness on the existing situation and risks. In coordination with the Tirana Legal Aid Society and UNICEF, UNHCR put forward legal modifications to address the two most relevant risks of statelessness, which were approved by the Parliament in October. Bylaws should be approved by the end of the year. At the same time, UNHCR’s partner is addressing the situation of over 300 persons, mostly children, whose birth and hence access to nationality, could not be registered in Albania. Half of the Civil Registrars in the country have been trained on risk of statelessness and on the use of informatics tools developed jointly with the civil registry. The input being provided to the new Citizenship law will complete the required legal actions.
UNHCR has strengthened strategic partnership with key actors, including the People´s Advocate Office, the EU Delegation, CoE, OSCE, UNICEF, the Agency of Child Right and Child Protection as well NGOs. In the context of increased arrivals and asylum requests, UNHCR has kept close contact and consultation with the EU Delegation and diplomatic missions, including of key donors.