This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al
By Sonila Meço
In the free world, people have the right to pursue their dream of a better life to get away from poverty, conflicts, war, to try countries where they feel their work is appreciated and where they can guarantee a better future for themselves and their family. This is how it has always been and this is how migration is explained at any time. But no decision maker or politician can use the right that people have for a better life to justify the high numbers of asylum seekers who are listing Albania alongside countries in war.
According to the Annual Report for the Situation with Asylum Seekers published by the European Union, this summer too, Albania ranks seventh in the world for the high number of people applying for asylum in the EU.
The number of Albanian nationals who have applied for asylum since 2013 is 157 thousand. If we calculate the number of asylum seekers per 1000 thousand residents for each of the 20 states who lead the list, Albania ranks first in the world. For every 1000 thousand residents in Albania, the number of asylum seekers in EU member countries was 9, putting us on top of the list. Gambia was second with 6,5 applications for asylum for every 1000 residents, followed by Syrians with 5,9 applications per 1000 residents.
Meanwhile, almost half of the Albanian population wants to leave the country, according to the opinion poll carried out by the Regional Cooperation Council as part of the Public Opinion Barometer in the Balkan countries. Asked if they would envisage leaving the country, 43% of Albanians have answered with a “yes”. We’re second in the region along with Bosnians. Kosovo ranks first in terms of the percentage of the population that wants to leave.
Despite the fact that the government is saying that the reforms are working and the economy is growing, the number of Albanian asylum seekers in EU member countries is similar to the ones coming from countries at war.
For the sake of the argument, a few days ago, Eurostat published other data regarding asylum seekers. In the second quarter of 2018, 3930 people applied for asylum for the first time in the European Union. In the first half of 2018, the total number of applications for the first time made by Albanians was 8040. France continues to be the country with the highest number of Albanian asylum seekers. In the second quarter of 2018, the number of applications made by Albanians amounted to 1495 or 38% of the total.
Greece comes next with 20% of the total number of asylum applications or 800 applicants. The UK is third. In the second quarter of the year, there have been 500 Albanians who applied for asylum in the UK and this figure makes up for 13% of the total.
The only argument that our leader provides about these figures is that “the issue of people leaving the country relates to their right of movement. We’re a free country and people are free to move. The only reason why Albanians are seeing political asylum is that Albania is not yet an EU member country and we have no access in the free labour market”.
However, the freedom of movement with the aim of finding a job is one side of the medal. But, to travel to another country and seek asylum, by making asylum figures for your country comparable to countries at war, is not a privileged status.
If we accept the fact that the international market is trying to attract the most qualified labour force, then how is the government expecting to achieve its target for economic growth, productivity and sustainable growth when the best doctors, engineers, inventors and professionals are leaving the country? How will the government make up for this loss of qualified people? Low investments, high growth in non-manufacturing sectors of the economy, high return rates in the construction sector and gambling; is this how the government is planning to make up for it? How can the government justify the fact that Albanians are leaving due to the lack of access in the European labour market, while Albania’s natural resources amount to 13,375 USD per capita? This level is higher than Greece, Italy, Germany and other European countries. In spite of this, GNP per capita for Albanians is several times lower than in these countries. The economic development of a country depends on how efficiently natural capital is used and how revenues from natural resources are invested in infrastructure and education. According to the World Bank, this has an impact on the growth of the wealth of a country. So, why should Albanians leave when they have all these natural resources here?
So, it’s quite normal for people to seek a better life, a better career, better living standards, but if a government has not yet explained why people want to leave one of the countries with the biggest natural sources in Europe, then the solution which is proposed by the government is as worse as the problems encountered by those who leave.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy