[Berlin Process Series] Comprehending Albanian Migration to Germany in the Period 2014-2016

This Working Paper aims to investigate and provide a robust and thorough understanding of the recent migration outflow originating from Albania during 2014 - 2015, the push and pull factors that caused it, their experience abroad and the profiles and perspectives of the returnees.

The Albanian migration wave of 2014 and 2015 strikes by it “normalcy”. If in the previous migration waves, leaving Albania to claim asylum abroad was very dangerous, today this endeavor is planned as an almost “normal” trip. The costs are at least 10 times lower than before, and the preparation time is an average of two to three days.

The trigger to the decision to leave the country is difficult to pinpoint with accuracy: it is a combination of factors most of them having to do with socio-economic conditions, (and the odd one about physical security). But the underlying cause remains the search for an enabling environment that would offer to them the chances to prepare a better future for them and their children.

Germany was selected because of its comparative advantage regarding the pull factors: an organized welcoming system, and generous pecuniary benefits while waiting for an asylum request to be proceeded. A most interesting feature is its reputation of being the country that offers the best life prospects and is serious and structured about it. Italy and Greece were relatively “easier” to reach but those countries did not offer the kind of “future” that Germany provides. The after-shock effect of the 2008 financial crisis was the trigger that “materialized” the decision to emigrate.

The common push factors (economic problems, poverty, housing, and unemployment) constitute the heavy tendency of the search for a better life. In addition, the decrease in remittances, the slowing down of the economic activity, and the return of tens of thousands of emigrants from Greece and Italy helped the migratory pressure reach the tipping point. Partial information from traditional media and biased information from social media, peer pressure and word-of-mouth provided the wrong impression to the would-be migrants, and raised their expectancies. Human traffickers – even if incomparably much less than before – played their role. It must be noted that visa-free movement was the key factor that undermined the business model of the human traffickers.

Financial allocations of the host country and in-kind support (food, housing, health care) were a very important pull factor. It allowed the asylum seekers to get the cash (needed to pay back the debts they contracted to finance their travel) and to enjoy from relatively good living conditions, in some cases better than those they left back in Albania. The Syrian inflow put an end to this relative comforting waiting time.

Albanian diaspora played a facilitating role by creating a “bridge” and offering a first contact point in Germany outside of the official system. Overcoming the language barrier, they provided a valuable source of information to migrants regarding life in Germany, employment opportunities, advice, etc. Basically, they offered a valuable alternative information channel to migrants, adapted to migrants’ profile.

After their return, they continued life as before. Except for a few who sold everything before leaving to Germany (house included) almost nothing did change for them. They made no contact with Albanian authorities to report their return or inquire about available reintegration measures. School officials have reported difficulties with re-integrating children in the school curricula. Many – especially the young ones – are now registered to German language courses, VET trainings or are using their contacts in Germany to look for jobs. For those ones, Schengen expulsion period is being put to profit to better prepare for the next time they plan to go to Germany.

Albanians will continue to move abroad. The objective of policy-makers should not be to stop it, but to regulate and manage. To mitigate its negative impact in Albania (brain drain, emigration of qualified manpower), and in Germany (overburden of asylum system), this fact should be acknowledged and appropriate measures drafted. The most urgent and important is proper information in Albania about the right way to find a job, or study abroad. On the policy level, it would be less costly and more productive to consider them as job seekers and / or students and not as “migrants”. This shift toward “regularization and normalization “of movement of people would require rethinking the approach by shifting the onus from migration management to active labor market measures. After all, the regularized Western Balkans (except Albania) labor migration to Germany has historically been an important component of the German labor market until 1990s. Properly managed it has been beneficial to the sending and host countries.



Document type
  • Research paper


Publication Year


Ardian Hackaj, Esmeralda Shehaj, Neshat Zeneli
Geographical focus
  • Albania
  • Germany
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • Social Sciences

Entry created by Krisela Hackaj on January 26, 2017
Modified on February 1, 2017