The visit by a UK delegation aimed to better understand the drivers of migration, assess living conditions, and explore potential solutions to the issues faced by the local population.
The delegation relied heavily on a survey commissioned by Swisscontact, main implementer of the New Perspectives (NP) project in the region. The data from the survey showed that approximately 51% of surveyed households in Kukës County have at least one family member living abroad, indicating a significant level of recent migration. The propensity to migrate is particularly pronounced in the municipalities of Kukës (57%), Has (47%), and Tropoja (50%), compared to the municipality of Dibër (33%).
The study also reveals that about 80% of respondents agree that there seems to be no viable option other than migrating abroad. The perception of limited prospects at home has created a "pressure environment" encouraging young people to seek opportunities abroad, with the UK identified as a prime destination.
Economic reasons play a crucial role in driving migration, with respondents citing the high cost of living, lack of employment opportunities, and youth unemployment as significant concerns. Employment opportunities within the region are limited, pushing many young people to consider low-paying jobs in sectors such as retail, hospitality, and manual labor. The sentiment that finding work in Kukës County and Dibër municipality is challenging is echoed across age and gender groups. In addressing the root causes of migration from countries like Albania, where economic factors play a significant role, the delegation proposed a long-term solution: supporting these counties in Albania to enhance their economic conditions.
Furthermore, the delegation suggested that promoting short-term work visas, particularly in sectors where the UK faces labor shortages, could be a strategic way to alleviate emigration pressures.
Around 30% of respondents in Kukës County expressed a personal inclination toward migration, with about 50% of these individuals having already decided on their destination. The perception that migration, particularly irregular migration, is a viable life option persists among some respondents, especially the younger demographic.
The survey also notes a general awareness of the risks associated with irregular migration, with respondents indicating that more information about the consequences of irregular migration could lead to a decrease in its prevalence.
The UK delegation's visit to Northern Albania provided valuable insights into the migration and asylum concerns stemming from the region. The delegation's recommendations focused on addressing optimizing the asylum system, promoting regular migration routes and drawing upon the migration experiences and policies from other European countries.
The report suggests targeted interventions to address the prevailing attitude that migration is the only option for progress.
The New Perspectives project has crafted initiatives that focus on providing accurate information about regular and irregular migration, highlighting potential risks, and showcasing success stories of regular migration and investment in the homeland. Through targeted interventions that increase the employment prospects of young people that currently lack skills or access to jobs or self-employment, the project has taken an inclusive approach to empower young people to take advantage of local economic and entrepreneurial prospects. This approach unlocks the region's full potential and supports its people in thriving economically.
Ultimately, the UK delegation's findings underscore the complex interplay of economic factors, governance perceptions, and migration attitudes in Northern Albania. Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach involving both local and international stakeholders.
The New Perspectives project is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, through the British Embassy in Tirana, and is implemented by Swisscontact in consortium with TAG International.