Gjerj Komnino

oil on canvas
48" x 60"
9,000 (unframed)
Gjerj Komnino

ALBANIA: Gjergj Komnino spent 25 years in an Albanian prison for "anti-Communist crimes" before fleeing to Italy to seek asylum. He died in 1996, at the age of 76, while awaiting a decision on his claim. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution." However, the general right to seek and to enjoy asylum has not always translated into the individual right to be granted asylum. While the European Union has established a strong human rights mandate since its inception, refugee protection has been considered a "black spot" on its otherwise commendable record. Policies that aim to tighten borders and deny admittance repeatedly fail to protect those fleeing from war, civil upheaval, and human rights abuses in their native countries. In 1997, the Italian government forcibly returned almost 300 asylum-seekers to Albania, despite severe political and social unrest in that country. European Union delegates described the security infrastructure of Albania as being "in shambles" at the time of the refoulement. During his own wait for asylum, Gjergj Komnino wrote this poem: