Cedoca consulted the widest possible range of sources on the state of domestic violence in Albania. Information was collected from governmental and non-governmental sources before, during and after Cedoca’s fact-finding mission to Albania from 13 to 21 March 2017. The research was closed on 22 September 2017.
Although domestic violence affects all segments of the population in Albania, women who are financially dependent on their husband or partner are especially concerned. Economic problems, excessive drinking and divorce situations are often the cause of violence in the family sphere.
Domestic violence is accepted as normal by a large section of the Albanian population, who do not see it as a criminal offense. This is due to gender stereotypes in a patriarchal society where women have a subordinate position. Through awareness campaigns, women are now presented in a more positive light and informed about their rights. These campaigns have also led the Albanian population to increasingly consider that domestic violence is unacceptable and that its perpetrators should be prosecuted.
The number of victims reporting domestic violence to the police increases every year but according to experts, many women do not report domestic violence out of shame or fear of being subjected to renewed violence. Other women do not report domestic violence because they are not sure they will receive protection, because they have no means of subsistence, or because they are ill-informed about their rights and the existing procedures. According to several sources, the number of domestic violence-related homicides is worrying.
Albania is a signatory of international conventions against domestic violence and has developed a number of strategies to fight domestic violence. Domestic violence was included as a criminal offense in Albanian criminal law in 2012. Since then, Albania has further revised its laws and penalties for domestic violence. Experts are positive about the legal framework for the protection of victims and the prosecution of perpetrators but are critical about its implementation.
This COI Focus describes how victims are protected and perpetrators are prosecuted by the Albanian authorities. Victims of domestic violence can lodge a complaint with the police, who will examine the case and refer it to court. The court will issue a protection order and/or start legal proceedings. Protection orders contain measures to protect victims but are not always implemented due to insufficient means and personnel, and it often happens that a victim continues to live under the same roof as the perpetrator.
For some years now, arrests and convictions of perpetrators of domestic violence have been increasing. Experts seem to agree that the police are taking their role in fighting domestic violence seriously but that there are aspects they need to improve in order to function properly. The courts have been blamed for not living up to their responsibilities. This problem is mainly due to corruption, to judges being amenable to bribery, to careless handling of cases, to mild sentences and to early releases of convicts. A general assessment and reappointment process for judges has started recently and experts are of the opinion that the judicial system will improve once this process has been completed.
The Albanian authorities have only a limited number of facilities for victims of domestic violence. Such facilities are mainly run by NGOs who depend on donor money. According to experts, more facilities are needed for victims of domestic violence and their accessibility, quality and geographical distribution must be improved. This is particularly the case for safe houses, which are found in the main cities but are faced with capacity and financial problems. Victims who are sheltered in safe houses receive assistance to facilitate their social reintegration and increase their ability to live autonomously. In 2016, more than 50% of victims who passed through a safe house were successfully reintegrated. According to experts, it is also crucial to offer a shelter to victims awaiting a protection order.
Healthcare is available for victims of domestic violence in Albania and most healthcare services provide free medical aid. However, experts consider that identification and registration of situations of domestic violence has still to be improved.
Housing and financial self-reliance are crucial elements for the successful reintegration of victims of domestic violence. During the validity period of a protection order, victims are entitled to a benefit. Victims of domestic violence are also entitled to social housing but adequate housing is difficult to find, according to experts.
Victims of domestic violence also have a right to free legal assistance and advice. Experts are of the opinion that there are only a limited number of facilities which can provide such help and they are not evenly distributed throughout the country. They also find that women are generally ill-informed about their right to legal aid, which has to be requested through a complex procedure.
There are also facilities for treating perpetrators of domestic violence. Experts stress the need for such facilities but also point at the lack of treatment programmes.
The policy implemented by the Commissioner General is based on a thorough analysis of accurate and up-to-date information on the general situation in the country of origin. This information is collated in a professional manner from various, objective sources, including the EASO, the UNHCR, relevant international human rights organisations, non-governmental organisations, professional literature and coverage in the media. When determining policy, the Commissioner General does not only examine the COI Focuses written by Cedoca and published on this website, as these deal with just one aspect of the general situation in the country of origin. The fact that a COI Focus could be out-of-date does not mean that the policy that is being implemented by the Commissioner General is no longer up-to-date.
When assessing an application for asylum, the Commissioner General not only considers the actual situation in the country of origin at the moment of decision-making, he also takes into account the individual situation and personal circumstances of the applicant for international protection. Every asylum application is examined individually. An applicant must comprehensively demonstrate that he has a well-founded fear of persecution or that there is a clear personal risk of serious harm. He cannot, therefore, simply refer back to the general conditions in his country, but must also present concrete, credible and personal facts.
There is no policy paper for this country available on the website.