Albanian blood feuds: an update

Thursday 16 April 2020

This update is provided for information and training purposes only and is not legal advice. Anyone affected by the issues raised in this paper should obtain professional legal advice from a solicitor, barrister or regulated immigration advisor.

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  1. In February 2020 the Home Office published a new Country Policy and Information Note (CPIN) on blood feuds.
  2. The new CPIN is generally very similar to the old October 2018 CPIN, which I addressed in detail in March 2019. Like the old CPIN, the new CPIN draws very heavily on a single source, a fact-finding report of the Belgian Commissioner-General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CEDOCA). And like the old CPIN, the new CPIN draws the wholly unjustified conclusion that cases based on blood feud can properly be certified as “clearly unfounded” under section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 – even though the existing country guidance case, EH (blood feuds) Albania CG [2012] UKUT 348 (IAC), accepts that a sufficiency of protection and an internal flight/relocation alternative will not always be available, and even though the CEDOCA report arguably fails to provide the “strong grounds supported by cogent evidence” that would be necessary to justify a departure from EH. My comments in March 2019 therefore remain relevant to the new CPIN.
  3. In this post I will not repeat what I said in March 2019. I will, however, consider the areas where the new CPIN differs from the old CPIN. This should be read together with my March 2019 post.
  4. One new source relied upon in the new CPIN is the Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review for Albania, published 3 July 2019. The link in the CPIN is broken but the report is available online. The CPIN now asserts in the “Policy Summary” at paragraph 2.5.3:

    “2.5.3 In July 2019, the United Nations Universal Periodic Review for Albania stated that several measures had been taken by the authorities to deal with blood feuds, and that the Directorate of State Police had compiled a database of all affected families.”

  5. Further references to the same paragraph of the Report of the Working Group appear at paragraphs 7.2.1 and 8.1.3 of the new CPIN.
  6. The assertions in the CPIN are all drawn from paragraph 52 of the Report of the Working Group. What the author of the CPIN appears to have failed to appreciate is that this part of the Report, which is part of a section headed “Interactive dialogue and responses by the State under review,” is the Working Group’s summary of the Albanian delegation’s submissions to the Working Group. This is apparent from paragraph 50 which begins “Responding to the interventions, the delegation of Albania noted that…” In paragraphs 50-61, the Working Group proceeds to set out the Albanian delegation’s submissions, concluding at paragraph 61 “In conclusion, the delegation highlighted that…” before proceeding to set out the views of other delegations at paragraph 62 onwards.
  7. So, whereas the CPIN misleadingly attributes this comment to the Working Group, it is in fact a record of the Government of Albania’s own position during the Periodic Review process. It is not an independent assessment and should not be presented as such. By contrast, the Working Group’s conclusions and recommendations are set out at paragraph 95, and it can be seen that several of these urged the Albanian state to take further steps to combat blood feud (see subparagraphs 95.43-95.45 and 95.178-95.179). The error made by the Home Office in this case is very much akin to an error it made in its July 2016 CPIN, which I pointed out in a May 2018 paper.
  8. The Policy Summary is otherwise largely unchanged, and the criticisms set out in my March 2019 post therefore continue to apply.
  9. The body of the CPIN contains some new, welcome information from a December 2017 report by Operazione Colomba. Much of this is helpful background information. It includes information about the ways the phenomenon of blood feud has changed in modern times (paragraphs 3.3.5-3.3.6) and the typical reasons blood feuds arise (paragraph 3.4.1). It includes the observations that the killer’s family as well as the victim’s may now go into self-confinement (paragraph 4.2.1); that the “incubation times” of blood feuds can differ significantly (paragraph 4.3.1); that the community is often unwilling to cooperate with the authorities in cases of blood feuds (paragraph 4.6.4); that there is societal pressure on people to avenge the killing of their loved ones (paragraph 4.7.1); and – particularly helpfully – that Kanun thinking exists in urban as well as rural areas (paragraph 5.1.2). All of this information will be of value in evaluating asylum claims. But plainly, none of it provides any particular support for the Home Office’s assertion that Albanians at risk of blood feud can avail themselves of a sufficiency of protection or an internal flight/relocation alternative. Little of it is reflected in the Policy Summary, except for an acknowledgment at paragraph 2.5.4 that members of the community may also be reluctant to engage with the police due to a fear of reprisals. 
  10. The Operazione Colomba report contains a revealing paragraph which is conspicuously absent from the new CPIN:

    “Concerning the direct protection of victims however, police investigations have not always produced the desired results. For example, the murder of a 70-year old man and his 17-year old granddaughter on 14 June 2012 in connection with a blood feud has yet to lead to justice being done. The ensuing feud has continued with another attempted murder. If the State cannot provide justice, forms of private justice may re-emerge. Despite the many calls for light on the case by society, the persons guilty of the double murder have not yet been identified. At the same time in another case, pressure from the Advocate of the People encouraged the Prosecutor’s Office to pay particular attention to the needs of the family of the victim of a murder caused by a family feud.

    Legal action taken by the Albanian State to toughen penalties does not always produce tangible results when applied. The victim’s family, which is not a party to the criminal proceedings, is often overlooked. The State therefore concerns itself - not always consistently - with punishing the guilty but fails to consider the victims. Focusing on the victims in the Albanian context of family vendettas is essential to reducing the tension between the clans involved and thus avoiding continuation of the feud.”
  11. This plainly supports the view expressed in my March 2019 post that there are no sufficient grounds to depart from the conclusion in EH that there is not, in general, a sufficiency of state protection for victims of blood feud. It should be remembered that “[t]he effectiveness of the system provided is to be judged normally by its systemic ability to deter and/or to prevent the form of persecution of which there is a risk, not just punishment of it after the event,” Bagdanavicius [2005] EWCA Civ 1605 at [54] (left undisturbed by the House of Lords [2005] UKHL 38; see also AW (sufficiency of protection) Pakistan [2011] UKUT 31 (IAC)).
  12. Another helpful paragraph casts doubt on the efficacy of internal relocation:

    “More than half have moved within Albania to city suburbs from their mountain areas of origin, often to escape the possible consequences and risks of a blood feud. Movement within the country reduces tension between parties but does not unfortunately guarantee safety as traditional Albanian society is based on relations between extremely extended families that can easily get information on the location of other people. Often the family surname alone is an indication of where it and its members come from, making it easy to find people who move out of a district.”
  13.  I conclude therefore that the views expressed in my March 2019 post remain valid.

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