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.
Shkodra, Albania. 2014. Agim Dini has opened a farm with the help of a financial aid project (Oxfam Italia onlus) for migrants that came back to Albania.
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.
Tirana, Albania. 2014. Two friends sitting at a bar on the top floor of a new skyscraper in Tirana. Endry (girl illuminated by the flash) has just come back to Albania after gavinh lived abroad for 11 years.
Shkodra, Albania. 2014. Gasper Ejelli with his son. Gasper came back home after losing his job in Italy.
Tirana, Albania. 2014. Ilir is the owner of a pub in Tirana. He worked as waiter in Italy for about ten years.
Tirana, Albania. 2014. A study by the National Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says many of the returned migrants see their return to Albania in only temporary terms. Only 40 percent of them see their future in Albania.
Tirana, Albania. 2014. Letters used to be the best way to describe life away from home and now they are an important keepsake.
Island of Corfu, 2014. Many Albanians in Greece are transferring savings to banks back at home, fearful of what might happen if Greece leaves the Eurozone. Some Greek and Italian companies have also begun to set up companies in Albania who are ran by trusted Albanians who used to work for them.
Shkodra, Albania. 2014. He worked in Greece for about ten years. Many men worked in construction, which has in latter years ground to a halt in Greece.
Gjirokastra, Albania. 2014. Ardit used to live abroad but has recently returned and opened a barbershop in the south of Albania.
Tirana, Albania. 2014. Local strip tease joint. The owners decided to close the club they ran in Italy and decided to open it in Tirana.
Shkodra, Albania. 2014. Catholic church. Although Albania is a Muslim country, there is full integration of all other religions.
North of Albania, 2014. Attracting foreign direct investments is crucial to the balance of Albania's economy and also for boosting productivity and diversifying Albania's rather narrow production.