Albanians Find Passports No Guarantee of Emigration

PETRIT has a problem. He emigrated to Australia 21 years ago and today is nearly 40 years of age. He is still very Albanian, despite his citizenship, but is sure of himself in an open Australian way.

Petrit's family here - two younger brothers, their wives, two children of each couple, and a mother - wants to join him.

``It won't be easy,'' he says, but he seems confident it can be done. ``It'll cost a lot of money, but I've done well. I can manage that. That's not the biggest problem.''

``Once we get jobs we can repay you,'' puts in a brother hopefully. He and his wife work in a factory, each earning little more than the minimum monthly wage - about 650 lek ($65).

Petrit's bigger problem is with the family's immigrant visas. When he migrated, Australian qualifications for visas were ``liberal.'' They still are, compared with many Western countries, but they are more demanding than before.

I ask a brother why he had not joined the exodus via Western embassies in July. ``I didn't feel that was the way,'' he says. ``Besides, we could wait in some refugee camp in Western Europe a much longer time than here, now that we've got passports.''

That seems to have been a widespread feeling. Since the exodus furor subsided, the Hungarian Embassy here has had a hundred Albanians a day presenting themselves with their new passports to request transit through Hungary.

Where they will go afterward is the question.

``We can't do more to help than have them complete a transit application for wherever they hope to go and forward it to the appropriate embassy in Budapest,'' says a consular official, as Albanians sit at tables, filling out forms.

The occupation of the embassies occurred two weeks after Albania had proclaimed freedom of travel abroad and the ``right'' of all Albanians to a passport. Since the ``refugees'' left, another 12,000 passports were issued in July in Tirana alone.

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