Greek border authorities do not allow some Albanians residing in Greece to re-enter the country because their children's Albanian passports list places of birth in Albanian.
By Erl Murati for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 06/02/14
The White Tower in Thessaloniki, Greece. The city is referred to as Selanik on Albanian passports, a discrepancy that is prompting Greek border authorities to refuse re-entry to Albanians who live in Greece. [AFP]
Albania and Greece are signalling willingness to resolve an issue with Albanian passports that is causing strained relations between the two countries.
Greek border authorities refuse to allow some Albanians living in Greece to re-enter the country after visiting Albania because the birthplaces of their children, who were born in Greece, are written in Albanian.
Places of birth such as Athens or Thessaloniki are listed as Athine or Selanik in Albanian passports.
Albanian officials said finding a solution is a priority and will be in line with international conventions.
"The two sides are involved in a process of negotiations and they have expressed a will at the highest level to make a suitable and final solution possible," Sokol Dervishaj, Albania deputy foreign minister, told SETimes.
Greek Foreign Minister Elefterios Venizelos said he will discuss the issue with the Albanian authorities during his next trip to Tirana and will work to reach a mutually acceptable solution.
Experts said the problem should be dealt with quickly because it directly affects free movement of a significant number of people, but it would be easier to treat it as a technical rather than a political issue.
One potential solution is to use both Albanian and Greek names of birthplaces in the passports, said Ilir Kulla, a former national security adviser in Albania.
"I think both countries have realised and have the will to find understanding over such a sensitive issue for the Albanians living in Greece," Kulla told SETimes.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Albanians have turned to Albania's ombudsman to voice concerns.
"I am afraid to visit Albania because I do not want Greek police to send me back at the border due to problems with the passports. I have a life in Greece now," said Elion Bodelli, an Albanian who has lived in Greece for 15 years and whose children were born in Athens.
It is up to Albania to find a solution to amend the passports by adapting them to the international rules, ombudsman Igli Totozani said.
"We have presented recommendations to the Albanian foreign ministry. Everything should follow international laws," Totozani told SETimes.
Some Albanians that were refused re-entry to Greece have reached out to the Albanian government to intervene.
Ertemjona Dervishi and her daughter were initially refused re-entry, but eventually reached their home in Kos, Greece, because the Albanian foreign ministry intervened on her behalf.
"This cannot be a solution. I cannot ask for the Albanian state for help every time I get in Greece. This problem has existed for years and time has come for it to be solved once and forever," Ertemjona Dervishi told SETimes.
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