The shantytown of Calais had attracted all eyes, and thus invisible what was happening elsewhere. The persistence of small squats and encampments in Calais until April 2016. But also the presence of Albanian Exiles – a priori only men. Albanian people are also trying to get to the United Kingdom in other places like Dieppe.
The situation of Albanian nationals is special: they do not need a visa for a short stay in the Schengen area (up to three months). If they meet certain conditions (health insurance, return ticket amount of money estimated sufficient), they are therefore simple tourists in France. But they need a visa to go to the United Kingdom, which is not part of the Schengen area.
Albanians are also the main nationality at the Coquelles detention center, next to Calais, in terms of the number of people detained (36.2% in 2015) and deported people (the counterpart of the visa waiver). Short stay is easy and there is rapid readmission by the Albanian authorities of the deported. The deportation decision is generally coupled with a prohibition to come back to French territory, which would render illegal their return to France within the time limit set by the prohibition.
Albanian nationals also form the first nationality in terms of asylum claims in France in 2016, according to provisional figures from OFPRA. These are mainly persecutions against the Roma, the threat of mafia groups, domestic violence, vendetta, against which the state is unable to protect its citizens. In spite of this situation, Albania is considered by France to be a safe country of origin, which makes it possible for people to have their asylum application examined under the accelerated procedure, with less guarantees. A counterpart to the waiver of short-stay visas to the Schengen area is also that the Albanian authorities prevent the emigration of “false asylum seekers”.
This ambiguous situation, against a backdrop of repressive policies, no doubt explains a particular stigmatization of these Exiles by the authorities, whether it be the “false asylum seekers” or the “Albanian mafia”.
But the fundamental inconsistency of this policy is that Albania is a candidate country to join the European Union, whose economy does not offer sufficient employment and income opportunities to its population, and to which the diaspora makes a significant financial contribution. It would therefore seem logical from an integration perspective that Albanian nationals could come to work legally in the European Union.
In reality, they come to work there without papers, with what that means in terms of exploitation, precariousness and repression. This repression and the accompanying stigma of the authorities helps to keep them in a situation of fragility and exploitation.
Welcome to the wonderful world of the European Union.
The Vizir bridge, near Kukës, Albania, on the road from Scutari to Prizren – Kei Marubi, Albanian photographer (1870 – 1940).