Former Ashraf residents relocated to Albania
Assessment for each PPG
Current Situation and Achievements to date
A total of 1,900 Iranians in need of international protection were relocated from Iraq to Albania in the course of 2016, bringing to an end years of efforts by many stakeholders to find solutions for the so-called “ex-Ashraf” caseload. Since 2013, a total of 2,901 individuals have been relocated from Iraq, of which 1,942 in the course of 2016. These individuals are all members of an Iranian opposition group in exile, Mujahedin al Khalq or MEK. At the end of 2016, 2,745 remain in Albania, of which 73% male and 27% female. The average age of the group is around 40, with many individuals in need of medical care. The group was located in a very unsafe location in Iraq in conditions that neared detention for almost four years. Many are traumatized and in need of psychological and social support. The 2016 arrivals in effect tripled the asylum seekers population in Albania. The relocations took place mostly over the summer, both in commercial and charter flights. All new arrivals were accommodated initially in the National Centre for Asylum Seekers, in Babrru then in UNHCR-managed buildings in two locations on the outskirts of the capital Tirana. Following the successful relocation of the group, Albania now faces the challenge of locally integrating all new arrivals. The legal status of individuals within the group must first be resolved as a matter of urgency. All new arrivals were granted access to the territory as asylum seekers, but only 41 to date have been granted refugee status. There are delays in the issuance of documentation, both short term residence permits and longer-term IDs, which effectively impedes access to rights and services. Protection and psycho-social needs within the new arrivals are high. National capacity to support asylum seekers and refugees and provide expert psychological care is limited. There is no national framework for local integration and the country does not provide financial support to refugees or asylum seekers. Without adequate support from UNHCR and other actors, the high number of new arrivals (in percentage term) could overwhelm the response capacity of the asylum system. The MEK group’s structure is tightly knit and very hierarchical. Some individuals choose to leave the group’s structure after arrival in Albania - they are known as “dissociates” and face a specific set of protection and integration challenges. They lack the material support provided by the group and often have little experience of previous independent living. Women in particular find the transition difficult. As of November 2016, some 220 persons had dissociated, of which 115 remained in Albania. Total numbers in 2017 are difficult to predict but late 2016 trends indicate a continuous increase is likely. Relocation and resettlement to third countries has provided solutions for about 10% of dissociates, largely through the US parole program or independent submissions / applications on grounds of re-admissions, previous links or former refugee status in other countries or family reunification. A small number of individuals might opt to voluntarily repatriate to Iran. In most cases, local integration remains the most likely durable solution. While the “dissociates” need more urgent and targeted assistance to develop their capacity for self-reliance, the entire group will require support to integrate as a community into Albanian life.
Strategy for each PPG
Protection and Solutions Strategy (comprehensive)
UNHCR Albania will provide a comprehensive protection response in coordination with the Government of Albania and other partners. The response will aim to: i) ensure that the long-term legal status of all individuals in the group is resolved, ii) facilitate local integration, starting with the issuance of individual documentation, iii) provide shelter for the first six months of 2017 for the entire group, iv) provide legal and psycho-social support to vulnerable individuals and v) provide protection interventions targeted towards solutions to individual cases, including support with family reunification and voluntary repatriation. One of the main priorities will be to ensure that the long-term legal status of all individuals is resolved and followed by quick issuance of appropriate documentation as an essential first step towards local integration. UNHCR will also provide legal representation to the asylum seekers in individual cases through a partner. UNHCR will prioritize access to individual by maintaining protection presence in its two reception facilities in Tirana to monitor that individuals are able to exercise their rights to self-determination. A comprehensive protection needs assessment will be carried out during the first quarter of 2017 to identify and support individuals with heightened protection needs and vulnerabilities. At the request of the Albanian government, UNHCR will continue to provide transitional / temporary accommodation to some 1,700 for the first six months of 2017. UNHCR will renew lease agreements and retain the reception facilities to ensure all individuals continue to live in safety and with dignity. In order to further facilitate integration, UNHCR will continue to provide Albanian language training for the entire group, as well as targeted skills training to some individuals and guidance to access the workforce based on a socio-economic assessment of the population and market study. UNHCR will also engage other actors, including development agencies and NGOs, the private sector and local authorities to provide sustainable long-term solutions. Specialised psychological support will be provided as part of efforts towards local integration. UNHCR will retain a consultant specialised in dealing with survivors of violence, torture and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in order to provide a multi-level and inter disciplinary strategy for appropriate intervention by national partners with the overall objective to build local capacity in the management of PTSD and victims of torture. UNHCR will continue to maintain dialogue with all stakeholders, including the government of Albania, MeK leadership, civil society partners and various embassies to achieve its objectives.
The response will focus around three main objectives: 1) support to the government to regularize the long-term legal status of the new arrivals and issue appropriate documentation; 2) provision of shelter and basic services and 3) working towards long-term solutions with a focus on local integration in coordination with an expanding network of partners. Access to individuals will remain a protection priority at all times, with a view to identify and address specific protection needs.