This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al
By Plator Nesturi
Albanians are leaving. We already knew that a great number of them, especially young people, have left to Europe to seek asylum and build a future there. The feeling of uncertainty and lack of hope for the future in a country which is not offering them anything, will certainly lead to many people to flee. As if this weren’t enough, growth of the population has come to a halt and for the first time ever, the number of deaths is greater than the number of births. The Institute of Statistics is the one confirming this, stressing that population has shrunk due to the change of the ratio between births and deaths. Under these circumstances, in 2100, Albania is expected to end up with a population of 800 thousand residents and this is alarming. This was the country’s population in the ‘20s and ‘30s of last century.
Up until a while ago, this looked impossible. While in other European states there was a growing concern about the ageing of the population and its low rates of growth, this could never be fathomed in Albania. We could have been poor and undeveloped, but our biggest asset was the young population and the high level of the growth of population. But this has changed in a few years. Even 30 years after the arrival of pluralism in the country, people continue to leave. First it happened in the ‘90s. Then in 1997 and now, this seems to be the third wave of these years. Although people constantly leave in search of better opportunities at any time, what we mention are considered to be waves of emigration, where people flee en masse. In this case, this wave is a quiet one and we no longer see people leaving in great numbers by boarding ships or motorboats. The liberalization of the visa regime has enabled everyone to leave to the EU member countries and seek asylum and job opportunities there. The figures have become a cause for concern and this could even jeopardize the process of the liberalization of visas for Albanians. Therefore, fighting this phenomenon has been one of the key priorities to enable the country’s integration in European structures.
Albanians continue to leave the country. This was once again brought to our attention by the deputy minister of Interior, while declaring that recently, France, Belgium and Germany have deported around 500 Albanian nationals. Meanwhile, the senior government official said that the ministry of Interior has prepared a lawsuit against tour operators, as a measure to prevent people from leaving the country. But it is not yet known what has become of this.
Albanians have no chance of being granted the asylum status in the European Union countries, because the fact that the country has been classified as a safe country, doesn’t offer this possibility. However, people of this country continue to leave, by exploiting every opportunity that they get to travel to Europe or beyond. Meanwhile, politicians continue to declare that they’re consolidating the state. However, Albanians continue to leave. They flee, although they know all too well that their chance of being granted a status is very slim, because they know we are considered a safe country and for this reason, they will be deported.
Every government has a duty to preserve the image of the country and in our case, the fact that European countries are filled with Albanian asylum seekers, tarnishes the image of the state. The message coming from abroad is that the government is not being able to guarantee a future for its people and exploit the capacities of these people who are obliged to offer their contribution outside the borders of the country. So, these tour operators which are exploiting the poverty of the people who are looking for a job and a bright future, are doing something criminal. But, this is only one side of the coin. What is being done for these people who want hope and jobs, attention and service, in order for them to contribute for their country and not only act as excess labour force?
The growth of employment by deducting those who used to work informally before, is insignificant compared to the growth of population. On top of this, the previous majority had already left us with a high level of unemployment. It’s true that we are a safe country based on European standards, but our economy is barely surviving and the situation with unemployment seems to be very serious.
Therefore, Albanians continue to leave. It’s true that the numbers of asylum applications in European countries have seen a drop compared to a year ago, but more than a change of mind, people have just become more aware of the fact that they will be deported and the money that they have spent to travel to Europe, has gone to waste. Meanwhile, the government is handling the issue of asylum seekers as an issue which is part of the criteria of integration in the European Union. So, it is an obligation toward the criteria needed to fulfill for the launch of accession talks and not as an obligation for its citizens, who continue to be the topic of the day and an excess labor force.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy