Albanian community becomes ‘ghost town’ as young men flock to work in UK
by: Hani Kamal El-Din
Ramiz, who had a stroke, cried at the memory of his son who left the Albanian town of Kukes to work in London to help support him.
Shaking between sobs, he told the Daily Express: “All of the Kukes younger generation are going to London. They say it is great for money.”
He worries about his son who spent three months in immigration detention and, when released, ended up washing cars.
Ramiz is sent money, but it is not a lot – far from the riches flaunted by those who have returned from the UK.
Most cars whizzing by on Kukes’s main street are new, expensive Mercedes and BMWs with British number plates.
The contrast to the plight of those who stay could not be more stark.
In fields around the town, women use hand ploughs to cultivate the earth.
Homes closer to mountains are abandoned entirely. The most intact now house livestock, with the rest collapsing slowly into the ground.
Sadije Cenaj, a resident of a nearby village, said the money her nephews earned in London saved her life. Holding photos proudly, she said: “Without them, I would be dead. They pay my medical bills.”
Her home is surrounded by properties enhanced by British riches but remain empty for most of the year.
Owners return for a brief holiday in August.
Since 1990, the population of the area has almost halved due to migration.
Osman, another resident, said: “It’s the worst thing that can happen. When all the younger generation goes abroad. How can we survive and live here? I don’t know how people like us will manage, we are old.”
Osman has two children in the UK, a daughter in Cardiff and a son in London.
He added: “80% of the families have at least one child in England.”
Osman believes the realities of life in the UK do not match the myths young people in rural Albania are being sold.
Despite spending a lot of time in England, his son has scarcely been able to improve life for his father.
He said: “My son tried to help me and he sent me some pocket money, but not a lot like how the media says.”