The mysterious death of detained 23-year-old Albanian asylum seeker, Florenc Beqiraj, has triggered outrage in his home country, and highlights the precarious lives of many migrants.
Beqiraj was declared dead on December 24 in a hospital in Marseille, France, after hospital staff are reported to have taken him off life support without his family’s consent.
Albanian media say Beqiraj’s death resulted from French police brutality. French authorities say Beqiraj committed suicide.
Beqiraj was detained on November 27 and was facing deportation. According to local French media outlet, Le Provence, his deportation date was set for December 15.
Twenty-four hours before that deadline, he was admitted to hospital with what Albania media report were strangulation marks on his neck and abrasive marks on his wrists.
Albanians demand answers
Beqiraj’s family is seeking an immediate autopsy and have called on French authorities to release all security camera footage from the detention centre where he was being held.
Anger has also been directed towards Albanian authorities, who critics say have shown little interest in the welfare of their own citizens.
Albanian politicians have said that the issue should not be “politicised” fearing that any comments seen as embarrassing to French authorities may have ramifications for Albania’s aspirations to join the EU.
Local activists in the Albanian capital, Tirana, protested outside the French Embassy after Beqiraj’s death.
The 23 year old had gone to France seeking a better life. He was apprehended by French police without papers and sent to a detainment camp awaiting deportation.
At the time of his death, Beqiraj had been in France for three years and was not known to have any criminal record.
Protests against far-right sentiment
Many Albanians on social media have also expressed anger at what they say has been a lack of transparency from French authorities and what they see as increasing anti-Albanian sentiment in France.
Earlier this year French far-right leader, Marie Le Pen, used anti-Albanian rhetoric to rally her supporters during her campaign for the presidency.
Terms such as “#JusticeForFlorencBeqiraj” and “Florenc Beqiraj” have been used thousands of times on social media platforms.
A group calling itself ‘Anonymous Albania’, which told TRT World it has links to the ‘Anonymous’ hackers’ collective, has taken down the official website of the French National Police in protest.