What do Albanians think of the Greeks

She does not welcome her home

She doesn't know where it's worse: in Greece or in Albania. Albana Sako lived and worked in Greece for twelve years. She has been looking for work in her hometown of Fier in Albania for a month.

So far, the search for the single mother has been fruitless. Because in Fier jobs are scarce and rents are high. The 32 year old Albana Sako lives with her son with her parents.

Many Albanian migrants in Greece face the same dilemma. The sectors in which they made their living were particularly hard hit by the Greek economic crisis. The construction industry, in which a large part of the Albanian migrants worked, is paralyzed. The demand for domestic help also fell significantly.

"Above all women worked in private households and were not insured," says the chairman of the Federation of Albanian Associations in Greece, Etmond Guri. "People are in great need because they took out house and car loans from the banks. Now they have lost their jobs, but the loan is still running."

"The job market is too small"

According to media reports, 600,000 migrants from Albania have been working in Greece, most of them since the early 1990s. They achieved a modest prosperity there and supported their families in Albania with their remittances.

Most of the migrant workers from Albania in Greece work in the construction industry

According to the Center for Economic and Social Studies in Tirana, around 180,000 migrants have returned to Albania. Many had hoped to find a job in their old homeland or to start a new life with the last of their savings.

But Albania does not offer any prospects; it seems to be overwhelmed by accepting the returnees. "Integration is difficult because unemployment is high in Albania," says Odise Kote, deputy mayor of the southern Albanian city of Gjirokaster near the Greek border. "The job market is small and overcrowded, there is no room for new business startups."

In addition, the Greek economic crisis is having a negative impact on Albania. "Dozens of Greek-Albanian joint ventures have gone bankrupt or are on the verge of bankruptcy. Trade between Greece and Albania in this region has plummeted by 55 percent," said Kote.

vitamin B

Officially, unemployment in Albania is 14 percent. In reality, it is likely to be twice that due to the widespread underground economy. The job market in Albania still works through personal relationships, criticizes association chairman Etmond Guri.

"Returnees no longer have a private network, but this is the main criterion for getting a job," explains Guri. The rumors that you have to pay authorities between 3,000 and 5,000 euros to get a job are not exactly encouraging.

Etmond Guri: "The people are desperate"

Albana Sako lost her personal contacts after more than a decade as a migrant worker in Greece. Her eleven-year-old son speaks only broken Albanian with a Greek accent. His peers mock him because he doesn't like going to school.

What discourages Albana Sako most, however, are the low salaries and precarious working conditions that her brothers also have to put up with. "You work on the construction site and get 250 euros a month. The boss gives you 50 euros first and the rest when he has the money."

Back to Greece with a heavy heart

In view of the difficult situation, Albana Sako decided to return to Greece: "I can work part-time as a domestic help at least three times a week and I can live on that," she says. This is not possible in Albania.

Many migrants follow their example. Because despite the crisis, they still see better opportunities in Greece than in their old homeland Albania. Association chairman Etmond Guri criticizes Tirana's political inaction, saying that, despite the efforts of the new Albanian government, nothing has changed for the returnees.

Vice Mayor of Gjirokastra Kote openly admits the deficits. "The Greek crisis took Albania a little unprepared," he admits. "We don't have a detailed plan for this situation."