How is Albania nowadays

Emigrants - A people on the run

Migration of the masses

Emigration was strictly forbidden in Albania under the communist regime that had ruled for decades and was a criminal offense. After the fall of the Wall, there was a real mass emigration in the 1990s.

According to the Federal Agency for Civic Education, almost half of the population had emigrated by 2010. Four million Albanians live permanently abroad - which is a remarkably high number since only about 2.8 million people live in Albania even today.

The numbers of emigrants are still high. World Bank calculations place Albania in ninth place of the ten countries with the highest emigration rate in relation to the population in the country of origin.

Labor migration and flight to neighboring countries

Most of the emigrants, around 1.6 million, live in Kosovo. About half a million live permanently in the neighboring country of North Macedonia, and an estimated 750,000 Albanians have settled in neighboring Greece.

Large groups also live in Turkey, Italy, Switzerland and the USA. The number of Albanians living in Germany is around 320,000.

In addition to migrant workers, there are also a large number of Albanian refugees. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that between 1990 and 2010 around 180,000 Albanians were granted refugee status. Among other things, they fled political oppression or ethnically motivated persecution, such as the Roma minority.

Italy is trying to prevent attempts to escape from the country, the neighboring state of Greece has deported tens of thousands of Albanian refugees in the past.

Quite a few Albanian citizens are also seeking asylum in Germany. The federal government has classified Albania as a safe country of origin since 2015. Further progress has been made in the protection of human rights since 2015, and systematic human rights violations have not been identified.

The number of asylum applications filed in Germany is declining. Of the around 2,000 asylum applications that are currently filed in Germany each year, only around 0.3 to around two percent are recognized.

However, the German government notes that the Roma’s access to education, health care and the labor market - despite a positive development - remains restricted and that Albania is still one of the poorest countries in Europe.

Long history of emigration

The history of mass migration from Albania goes back a long way - to the 15th century. Under Ottoman rule, residents fled persecution or poverty. In the 20th century, the Balkan Wars and the two world wars gave cause for flight. The majority of men emigrated to North America, especially from the south of the country, in the hope of a better life.

Albanian minorities in Greece, the USA, Italy and other countries still maintain their own language and culture today. When the communists came to power in 1944, the borders were closed. Only a few managed to escape. The number of immigrants was negligible during this period, which was to last until 1990.

Albania - "Europe's poor house"

One of the most important reasons for the high rate of emigration to this day is poverty. At 5,261 US dollars, the per capita gross domestic product is 40 percent below the EU average.

According to calculations by the federal government in 2019, the gross monthly average wage is around 400 euros. Two percent of the population lives in "absolute poverty" with a per capita income of less than $ 60 per month or less than $ 2.5 per day.

The unemployment rate was officially 13.7 percent in 2018, but should actually be significantly higher.

Well educated people left Albania

After the country was liberated in 1990, poverty and unemployment prevailed. As in other post-communist countries, agricultural cooperatives were closed and industry fell to the ground. Massive poverty led many residents to the coastal cities in the west, with the aim of getting to Italy by ship.

Around half of the scientists and academics left the country in the 1990s. For the Albanian economy, the money that Albanians working abroad send to their relatives is very important.

Remittances peaked at $ 1.3 billion in 2007 and have been falling since then. According to the World Bank, the so-called remittances made up almost ten percent of the gross domestic product in 2018.

Family members working abroad enable relatives to earn a living, to educate themselves and to make small investments.

Rural exodus depopulates regions

Migration within the country also plays a major role in Albania. It leads to an unbalanced distribution of the population. Some regions, such as the municipality of Leskovik in the mountainous southeast of the country, have literally become depopulated. Here, on average, only two residents live in one square kilometer.

The cities, especially the capital Tirana, are very densely populated. In the villages in particular there is hardly any work outside of agriculture, which explains the rural exodus. The fact that young Albanians move to the cities or abroad leads to downright aging in rural areas. Since the majority of young people emigrate, fewer and fewer children are born.