A resolution calling on the Albanian government to remedy a discriminatory measure that targets the Cham community was published in a report of the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) of the European Parliament.
The persistent discrimination against the Cham people is a great concern for president Festim Lato. One crystal clear violation of the human rights of the Cham people is the refusal of the Greek border police to let Cham-Albanian citizens who were born in Chameria to cross the border. This human rights issue causes much grief to elderly Cham who are unable to visit their places of birth.
On 20 February 2018, a group of thirty elderly Chams who were born in Chameria tried to cross the Greek border, but were denied entry. This is due to the fact that the Greek government uses the argument that passports of people with Albanian citizenship who were born in Chameria need to specifically state that their country of birth was Greece. Most of the passports of people born in Chameria are completely valid documents with which they can travel to all countries in the Schengen area, except to Greece.
The Albanian government is also not supportive of the Cham community by on the one hand bowing to Greek pressure to recognise Chameria as Greek, as can be seen by the implementation of the 2014 passport law, and on the other hand not properly implementing these regulations for the Cham people by not distributing the proper documents. A detailed explanation as well as links to the official government documents is here.
Following this clear human rights violation, president Festim Lato set about trying to find political and legal means of addressing the issue and solve it as soon as possible.
One strategy has been to address it in the European Parliament. Since February 2018 President Festim Lato has met many parliamentarians who are a member of the foreign affairs committee (AFET) with the specific request to help solve this human rights issue. Fortunately, there were several Members of the European Parliament who were very open to help solve the issue.
Several key members of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament drafted a resolution calling on the Albanian government to solve this issue and provide the Cham people with the same rights as all other Europeans. This resolution was included in the report of amendments by MEP Knut FLECKENSTEIN, who is the rapporteur on Albania and bi-annually produces a report about Albania’s progress on implementing European values.
The resolution reads as follows:
“Reiterates the importance of freedom of movement of Albanian citizens among the EU countries; calls on the Government to ensure that Albanian citizens born in Greece, holding valid Albanian passport, cross the GreekAlbanian border without any restriction; calls hence on the Government to update the passports of those citizens replacing as place of birth the name of the village/city with the name of the country;”
President Festim Lato is grateful to all the members of the foreign affairs committee who supported the resolution. His special thanks goes to the parliamentarians Ms. Monica MACOVEI and Mr. Ivan JAKOVČIĆ who proposed to include the resolution to address the human rights violation of the Cham people into the report of amendments.
President Festim Lato hopes that the elderly Cham who are not allowed to cross the Greek border will soon benefit from international pressure and be allowed freedom of movement to visit the places of their birth and childhood.