Treatment of ethnic Albanians [GRC42072.E]

A number of reports estimate the number of Albanians in Greece as being between 300,000 and 500,000 persons (AI and IHF Sept. 2002, 32; AP 20 June 2003; Kathimerini 1 Sept. 2003). In 2000, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) estimating the Albanian immigrant population to be slightly higher, reported that of approximately 900,000 immigrants, almost 585,000 were from Albania (Nov. 2001, 87). Even so, the EUMC indicated that many ethnic Albanians in Greece are undocumented migrants (EUMC Nov. 2001, 37).

Treatment of Albanians by Greek Society

Although the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) considers the Roma community in Greece to be the most abused minority group, Albanians were more likely to be killed by Greek law enforcement officials (28 May 2002, 153). The EUMC also singles out ethnic Albanians as principle targets of racism; however, it noted that the more positive treatment of Christian Albanians with Greek ancestry distinguishes them from the broader group of Albanian migrants although while acknowledging that there has is research data has yet to account for this differential treatment (EUMC Nov. 2001, 25, 38 n. 85). Furthermore, the EUMC found that undocumented Albanian migrants "experience serious discrimination in employment, particularly with respec to [the] payment of wages and social security contributions" (ibid., 37)

Kalliopi Lykovardi, a lawyer and investigator for the Greek Ombudsman's Office, describes xenophobia in Greece as follows:

A significant amount of anti-foreigner sentiment is directed particularly, although not exclusively, towards Albanians living in the country.... The migration flows between Albania and Greece during the [1990s] have been matched by manifestations of hostility and fear within Greek public opinion, [which] has contributed to expressions of prejudice and to the vulnerability of this group to exploitation in the labor market. This negative attitude vis-à-vis Albanians is particularly nourished by a disputable picture of the number of crimes committed by this group of people in Greece. [The] negative stereotyping of this group should give the impression that all or most Albanians are criminally inclined. The persistence of this view can only reinforce the reported trends towards their social and economic exclusion. Given the high probability that this group will have a permanent presence in Greece, this would not be a desirable outcome. In addition, public statements by politicians and some representatives of public institutions (notably, the police) have in some cases also contributed to the disputable view of Albanian criminality (IOM Jan. 2003, 4).

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) also charged that Greek media actively engages in disseminating hate speech against the Roma and Albanians (28 May 2002, 157).

Treatment by Law Enforcement and Border Authorities; Impunity

A delegation of the Council of Europe's (COE) Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) "could not fail to note the disrespectful attitude displayed by some [law enforcement] officers when referring to detainees, particularly those of Albanian origin" (20 Nov. 2002, 17). Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) spokesperson Panayote Dimitris argued that the little regard held by Greek border authorities for the lives of Albanians illegally inside Greece results in "'frequent ill-treatment cases, injuries and deaths that are hardly ever investigated'" (25 Sept. 2003). The EUMC observed that the Albanian population "is subjected to mass arrests during police sweeps and is the target of frequent routine deportations" (Nov. 2001, 25). Reports indicate that deportations of Albanians number in the thousands (AI and IHF Sept. 2002, 34). Two revealing examples reported in a joint Amnesty International (AI) and IHF document indicates that some 2,500 unauthorized Albanians were forcibly returned to Albania in one June 2001 week and, that according to police headquarters' records from Korça, over 30,000 deportations were undertaken in the first six months of 2001 (ibid.). Greek Ombudsman's office representative Lykovardi also cites discrimination against Albanians at Greek borders and "considerable numbers" of deportations

of Albanian immigrants. While most of these persons were not legally registered, others reportedly held regular documentation. Albanian immigrants and deportees are sometimes reported sometimes to be subject to ill-treatment by the Greek police and to face discrimination by locals in different fields, including, in some cases, being denied access to public places (IOM Jan. 2003, 4).

With respect to the Greek-Albanian border, a number of human rights organizations claim that in September 2003, Greek border police killed, detained and otherwise mistreated legal and illegal Albanian migrants attempting to enter Greece (AHC 25 Sept. 2003; GHM 25 Sept. 2003; OMCT 16 Oct. 2003; ENOUGH 26 Oct. 2003; ARCT 17 Sept. 2003). According to a statement by the Organisation mondiale contre la torture (OMCT), the September 2003 cases were the most recent in a series of alleged human rights violations and extrajudicial executions perpetuated by Greek border guards against Albanians dating between 2000 and 2003 (OMCT 16 Oct. 2003).

Some argue that in cases of violence against ethnic Albanians, Greek law enforcement enjoys an environment of impunity (GHM 25 Sept. 2003; AI and IHF Sept. 2002, 34; IWPR 13 Dec. 2002; OMCT 16 Oct. 2003; ENOUGH 26 Oct. 2003). The Institute for War and Peace Monitoring (IWPR) noted that "in practice [they] have rarely been brought to justice," and that when law enforcement officials are tried or convicted, they face "only nominal punishment, such as a suspended prison sentence" (13 Dec. 2002). The Greek Helsinki Monitor alleges that the "'Albanophobia'" of large sectors of Greek society, including within law enforcement agencies, and the environment of impunity are responsible for the mistreatment of Albanians (GHM 25 Sept. 2003). For a detailed discussion of human rights violations attributed to Greek law enforcement agencies and their impunity, please consult the September 2002 joint AI and IHF report entitled Greece: In the Shadow of Impunity. Ill Treatment and the Misuse of Firearms.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC). 25 September 2003. "Stop Violence of the Greek Police Towards Albanians." [Accessed 24 Oct. 2003]

Albanian Rehabilitation Center for Trauma and Torture (ARCTT). 17 September 2003. "Ill Treatment of Three Albanian Emigrants from the Greek Police." Press Release. (Balkan Human Rights List Service) [Accessed 6 Nov. 2003]

Amnesty International (AI) and International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). September 2002. Greece: In the Shadow of Impunity. Ill Treatment and the Misuse of Firearms. (AI Index: EUR 25/022/2002)$File/EUR2502202.pdf [Accessed 7 Nov. 2003]

Associated Press (AP). 20 June 2003. Miron Varouhakis. "EU Citizenship Rules Could Face Test by Greek Offer to Ethnic Brethren in Albania." (Dialog)

Council of Europe (COE). 20 November 2002. Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). Report to the Government of Greece on the visit to Greece carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 23 September to 5 October 2001. (CPT/Inf (2002) 31) [Accessed 7 Nov. 2003]

ENOUGH Civic Movement (MJAFT). 26 October 2003. "'Enough' of Violence on EU Borders (Greece-Albania)." (Balkan Human Rights List Service) [Accessed 6 Nov. 2003]

European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). November 2001. Diversity and Equality for Europe: Annual Report 2000. (EUMAP) [Accessed 7 Nov. 2003]

Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM). 25 September 2003. "Abuses Against Albanians in Greek-Albanian Border Among Prevailing Impunity in Greece and Indifference of Albanian Government." Press Release. [Accessed 6 Nov. 2003]

Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). 13 December 2002. Balkan Crisis Report. No. 390. Gazmend Kapllani and Jeta Xharra. "Greece: Minorities Face Rough Justice." (Balkan Human Rights List Service) [Accessed 6 Nov. 2003]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 28 May 2002. "Greece." Human Rights in the OSCE Region: The Balkans, the Caucasus, Europe, Central Asia and North America Report 2002 (Events of 2001). [Accessed 6 Nov. 2003]

International Organization for Migration (IOM). January 2003. Awareness Raising and Legal Training on Discrimination Practices Project. Kalliopi Lykovardi. "General Overview of Discrimination in Greece." The Handbook. [Accessed 29 Oct. 2003]

Kathimerini [Athens]. 1 September 2003. "Immigrants Become Part of Greece." [Accessed 28 Oct. 2003]

Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT). 16 October 2003. "Case GRC 161003 Violation of Personal Integrity/Extrajudicial Execution/Impunity." (Balkan Human Rights List Service) [Accessed 6 Nov. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted


Internet sites, including:

Balkan Human Rights Group, List Service

Balkan Human Rights Web


EUMC. 2002.

Diversity and Equality for Europe: Annual Report 2001

European Country of Origin Information Network

Human Rights Watch

Security Monitor


Associated documents