Anyone can become a refugee, even a European

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11 May 2017

Decisions on asylum claims can be life or death. So why is the Government taking such great risks with people’s futures? Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis explores a worrying development.

These days, when most people think of a refugee, they imagine someone fleeing Syria, huddled onto a rickety boat, somewhere in the Mediterranean. Or they think of families fleeing a notorious refugee producing country, like South Sudan.

Not many people would expect that you can be from somewhere much closer to home, and still be classed as a refugee. But you can.

For a number of years, Albania has been among the top nationalities of people claiming asylum in Britain. Almost all of these claims are refused.

However among these claims are the cases of people who’ve fled Albania because their lives are undoubtedly in danger there. As surprising as it may sound; these people need our protection and we’re legally obliged to give it to them.

Albania may be a country in Europe. It may be a holiday destination for some people. And it may be currently attempting to join the European Union. But that doesn’t mean it’s a safe place for everyone who lives there.

It’s an especially dangerous place for Albanian people who’ve been trafficked, those fleeing domestic violence and also for LGBT people; there is plenty of evidence that their own government doesn’t keep them safe. Since 2011, 1,261 people from Albania have been granted some sort of protection by the UK Government.

As the Guardian shockingly revealed; it could’ve been many more. As it turns out, the Home Office has been ignoring a 2011 court ruling which should’ve stopped it relying on old information about how safe it was to return people from certain backgrounds to Albania.

That means since 2011, an unknown number of people could have been wrongly sent back to Albania where they were at risk of suffering persecution, or worse.

Those who are still here, many living in absolute destitution will have to make their own way to the Home Office in Liverpool to ask for their case to be opened up again. That’s if they’re lucky enough to know they’ve got this option; they don’t get told automatically.

There’s a disturbing pattern here. The Home Office was also recently reprimanded for knowingly making decision on Eritrean’s asylum claims based on discredited information.

Given that decisions on asylum claims can be life or death, it’s vital that the Home Office is held to account for the decisions it makes. After all, no one is above the law, not even the Home Office itself.

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