Report by Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit highlights discrimination and racism experienced by Albanians in UK asylum system
The Migrant and Refugee Children's Legal Unit (MiCLU) based at Islington Law Centre published a report last month highlighting a number of concerns over the treatment of Albanians in the UK immigration and asylum system.
Image credit: WikipediaYou can download the 8-page report here.
It comes following the suicide of an Albanian asylum seeker on the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge on 12th December and the death in hospital on 17th November of an Albanian held at Brook House immigration removal centre (IRC) after a suicide attempt.
MiCLU though its Breaking the Chains project supports asylum-seeking children and young people from Albania.
In its report, MiCLU warns that an increasingly hostile attitude towards Albanian asylum claims in the UK poses a serious risk to the mental health and wellbeing of Albanian asylum seekers.
MiCLU said: "The conditions in immigration detention, and in non-detention accommodation like the Bibby Stockholm, are particularly pressing for our Albanian clients who are at much greater risk of being ordered to live in these settings. Furthermore, the experience as an Albanian is different compared to other nationalities because of the hostile environment facing Albanians when making their claims – the chance of return, the culture of disbelief, and the threat of provisions like those contained in the Illegal Migration Act which will deem Albania a safe country and make claims inadmissible."
The report summarises a number of recent developments relating to Albanian asylum claims, including the UK-Albania joint communiqué, the Illegal Immigration Act 2023, changes to legal provisions in relation to trafficking, and updated Home Office country guidance. MiCLU says all of these developments contribute to feelings of hopelessness among the Albanian community.
In addition to policy changes made by the Government, MiCLU highlights how negative narratives around Albanian asylum seekers in political discourse and the media contribute to rising levels of discrimination, stigma and racism experienced by members of the Albanian community in the UK.
MiCLU noted: "The young people we support often tell us that they find the media and political narratives about them and their country harmful and that they 'do not want to be treated like trash'. It has a powerful impact on their sense of belonging as they have had to flee Albania but do not feel welcome in the UK."
The report also highlights how Albanians are particularly affected by the widespread lack of legal aid immigration solicitors in the UK.
The report explains: "Whilst it is increasingly difficult for anyone to secure legal representation in the UK, Albanians face particular difficulties because of the nature of their cases. Any asylum claim for an Albanian young person is unlikely to be successful without significant expert testimony to identify and explicate key risks and outline areas where the claimant's individual circumstances are at odds to the [Home Office's] country guidance."
MiCLU says it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure legal representation for young Albanian asylum seekers and there is now a large waiting list of young people in need of representation. This has a significant impact on people's mental health, especially given the added uncertainty over the Illegal Immigration Act.
The report calls for urgent action to ensure proper support for mental health and to prevent any further deaths among Albanians in the UK.
In concluding, MiCLU commented: "The young Albanians we support face an incredibly difficult situation. Inability to access legal advice, experiences of stigma and discrimination in everyday life, and high risks of their asylum claims being certified or referrals for trafficking being rejected. The threat of detention exacerbates all these factors and makes detention extremely difficult to endure. It's clear that the consequences on the mental health of Albanians in detention can be severe. It is imperative that the detention system acknowledges these pressures and puts in place additional protections and safeguards to keep Albanians who are detained safe and well."