After the Netherlands, also France may seek the return of the visa regime for Albania. The French Ministry of Interior Affairs has declared that the reason for this initiative is the high number of Albanian asylum seekers. During 2017, 4,911 Albanians have so far applied for asylum, an increase of 170% in comparison with 2016. The second issue, related to the influx of illegal immigrants, is the increase of Albanian crime, human trafficking, and prostitution.
French daily newspaper Le Figaro writes that the French Ministry of Interior is taken all the necessary measures to return Albanian asylum seekers, who mainly apply because of economic reasons, back to Albania using chartered flights. Minister Colomb is also expected to visit Tirana in September to discuss this worrying phenomenon face to face with the Albanian government.
Albanians comprise the largest group of asylum seekers in France, leaving behind Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war, as well as Afganis, Sudanese, and Haitians. It appears that many Albanians are using blood feuds as an excuse to apply for asylum, but the French authorities state that this problem is most probably exaggerated.
By suggesting a suspension of the visa exemption for Albanian citizens, France joins the Netherlands, whose police and prosecution recently suggested a return to the visa regime in order to put a halt to Albanian crime. Recent changes in EU regulations make it easier for a simple majority of EU countries to request the suspension of a visa waiver, and the backing of Netherlands and France would make such a proposal viable.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Edi Rama remains in denial. In response to a question regarding Albanian crime in the Netherlands, he recently stated:
…we are not talking about accepting to be identified for propagandistic purposes as criminal problem, or whatever how would I know. Criminals don’t have a fatherland. They are people who commit crimes and let them go and pay according to the countries [where they commit them]. It’s our task to deal with the criminals in Abania and we don’t divide them, whether they’re Italian, Albanian, Greek, or Brazilian. Let them take care of the criminals in their own countries and not bother us with those divisions, because those divisions make no sense in the Europe in which we live.
Also Minister of Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati responded inappropriately to the initiative of the Netherlands, which now might be joined by France:
The desperate cicadas of June 25 that pass the fever of August with cries about the return of visa! Get well soon!