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Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Section 3, Article 18 of the Constitution of Albania has an odd disclaimer that suggests that there are cases when discrimination is “objective and justified”.

In November 2011 the Constitutional Court of Albania ruled in favour of excluding the “ethnicity” category from both the Civil Status Act and the population census. While exclusion of this category from the Civil Status Act is generally consistent with the European Protection of Human Rights regulations, excluding it from the population census where completing it is strictly voluntary and only represents the self-identification of the respondent, is somewhat illogical.

The expert opinion is that this is Albanian government’s attempt to twist statistics in order to make the number of national minorities living in Albania appear smaller than it really is. All of this resulted in a situation where minorities residing outside the so-called “Minority Zones” have practically lost the ability to prove their identity.

The Albanian Criminal Code does not contain any statements about racial hatred and other prejudices serving as a motive aggravating the seriousness of the offense. Despite the assurances of the Albanian authorities that courts will be taking these factors into consideration when issuing verdicts, as well as statements that it “contradicts the Albanian legal system” , the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has on multiple occasions suggested for Albania to amend its Criminal Code in such a way that racism, as well as other prejudiced actions, would be treated as aggravating circumstances.

In the middle of August Albania introduced a new law that simplifies the process of citizenship acquisition for all the ethnic Albanians residing in the adjacent territories. Albania’s neighbouring countries saw this as another step towards creation of “The Great Albania”, which, hypothetically, is supposed to include parts of Greece’s, Macedonia’s, Serbia’s and Montenegro’s territories.

Albania also ratified the European Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers in 2007. In March 2003 even a special law was issued - N.9034, “On Emigration of Albanian Citizens due to Employment Reasons”, Article 1 of which declared that Albania guarantees care and protection to its emigrant citizens and will maintain and develop connections with their countries of residence.

Article 16 of the Albanian Constitution dictates equality of rights, freedoms, and responsibilities for indigenous Albanian citizens, legal foreign immigrants, and Albanian residents without citizenship. In turn, Article 39 prohibits mass deportation of foreigners In March 2013 Albanian Parliament accepted a new amendment to the “Law on Foreigners”, which adapted it to the EU norms as much as possible. This amendment abolished the necessity for EU citizens to obtain a work permit in order to find employment in Albania, as well as gave EU citizens same rights as Albanian citizens for medical and social aid.

The amended version of the “Law on Foreigners” is consistent with Directive 2009/50/EC on Entry and residence of highly qualified workers, as well as with the introduction of EU Blue Card, which also regulates employment of highly skilled professionals from Third World countries. The new “Law on Foreigners” adapts the aforementioned directive to the specifics of Albanian population and economy. Laws regulating entry and exit from the country are also fully consistent with Directive 2004/38/EC on the right to move and reside freely. This means that Albania has implemented a visa-free regime for EU citizens and opened its borders for everyone in possession of a “Schengen Visa”.

The regulations for refugees and asylum seekers are governed by the “Law on Asylum in the Republic of Albania” implemented in 1998.

In 2016, the principle of gender equality was introduced as one of the basic principles of universal equality in the Constitution of the country.

On November 18, 2020, amendments to the Protection Against Discrimination Act went into effect. They add new protected characteristics on which discrimination is prohibited: citizenship, gender, HIV/AIDS, and physical appearance. In addition, 8 new forms of discrimination were added, such as: multiple discrimination , cross-discrimination , hate speech , segregation , sexual harassment , structural discrimination , incitement to discrimination or helping another to discriminate , declaration of intent to discriminate ), with reference to international practice as well as to current social circumstances. Existing forms of discrimination, such as the case of "victimization," have also been reformulated.

There is also a separate provision on severe forms of discrimination when the discriminatory behavior is motivated by more than one ground, is committed repeatedly, continues over a long period of time, or when it has had a particularly harmful effect on the victim. In such cases, the law provides for a doubling of the sanction. The criteria for the election and dismissal of the Commissioner for Protection against Discrimination (Article 24, subparagraphs "a", "b" and "c" and Article 28, subparagraph "b") have been reformulated.

Some powers of the Ombudsman for Protection against Discrimination have also been changed, where we shall mention, among others: - to examine complaints from persons or groups of persons claiming to have been discriminated, as provided not only by the Law "On Protection against Discrimination", but now also by the Law "On Gender Equality in Society"; - to monitor the implementation of the Law "On Gender Equality in Society"; - to examine complaints from organizations having legitimate interest to act on behalf and with the written consent of a certain individual. (Article 32).

The law included the obligation of all public institutions and private persons to support the Commissioner by providing information and guaranteeing access to information, in accordance with the legislation on the right to information and the protection of personal data. (Article 32).

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