Tirana, Albania. 2014. View of Tirana from the window. Census data revealed that the Albanians who have returned tend to be relatively young and of working age.
This article was originally published by VICE Greece
Human migration is an ancient phenomenon that has always matched periods characterised by overpopulation, political conflicts and economic crises. The European continent in particular has always been a scene for mass population movements, encouraged by either what we call "push factors", which are internal to the country of origin, or "pull factors", which are external and associated to the countries of destination.
During the 1990s, due to the collapse of the Iron Curtain, the fall of many communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the end of the Balkan war, Europe witnessed an intense migration wave from the East to the West and the South. In Albania, the fall of the Hoxha regime caused masses of migrants to flee to nearby EU countries like Italy and Greece.
As the same countries experienced an economic meltdown over recent years, Albanians stopped feeling the "pull" towards the South.
For instance, Greece is still feeling the after effects of the economic downturn with an unemployment rate of 27.5 percent. Albania on the other hand, made enormous strides over the last two decades in establishing a credible, multi-party democracy and market economy.
Following graduation from the International Development Association (IDA) to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) in 2008, Albania has generally been able to maintain positive growth rates and financial stability. So, it's no wonder that many Albanians decide to return to their home country.
Perhaps it is still too early to speak of a true "upstream exodus", yet the social and environmental consequences of a mass migration trend are already being felt in Albania, Greece and their neighbouring countries.