EU Commission Reviewing Albanian Visa Bans

Albanians soon may no longer be free to travel around Europe without a visa because of illicit activities involving the Albanian mafia in the Netherlands.

European Commission (source: Diliff)European Commission (source: Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0)“Albanian nationals play a significant role in organized crime in cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam and other regions in the country,” Robert de Groot, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the EU, wrote in a letter to the European Commission on Friday.

He recommended putting brakes on visas for Albanians living in the Netherlands. This would stop any kind of European travel within the Schengen zone for Albanian citizens.

“Of course, decisions to suspend visa-free travel cannot be taken lightly, and any steps leading towards triggering of the mechanism would be subject to very careful assessment and analysis,” said Natasha Bertaud, Commission spokeswoman. 

The request comes after four members of Parliament asked the Dutch government to suspend visa-free travel for Albanians.In a letter to the government, they described an increase in Albanian mafia activity and warned that, “These criminal organizations are abusing the possibility of traveling through Europe visa-free and thus further expanding their smuggling network.” 

De Groot also brought up 551 Albanians applied for asylum in 2018--51% more than the year before, according to the Dutch Immigration and Nationalization Service. Albanians also are among the top five nationalities reapplying for asylum.

74 first-time Albanian asylum seekers have submitted applications in the first four months of 2019.

The Dutch government considers Albania as a safe country of origin, where “nationals are under no risk of persecution, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.” But, discrimination against minorities, and tough economic conditions are reasons Albanians are immigrating to other European countries, according to a 2013 report from the European Asylum Support Office. 

Similarly, France threatened to cut off Schengen visa services for Albanian citizens in 2018 because of high asylum applications and the amount of Albanians who committed criminal offenses.  

As the EC looks over the request, Albanians will still have access to visa-free travel around Europe.