Making up over 56% of the total migrant population, the Albanian community is the single largest group of migrants in Greece, and one that has experienced both struggles and solidarity in settling and integrating in the country.
The project ‘Communities in Greece’ is a research initiative, carried out by the CDRSEE and a team of academics and researchers from Athens and Thessaloniki. The aims were to document and highlight the experiences of the Albanian community in Greece, with a view to finding practical ways to ameliorate the problems they face and also to share best practice and celebrate successes.
Presented to the public of Thessaloniki on February 7, the research was outlined by the authors and the event was moderated by the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the CDRSEE, Mr Nikos Efhtymiadis. Attending the event were a number of the research participants as well as the Consuls of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The overall findings of the research reveal that while progress has been made over the past two decades in terms of acceptance and integration of Albanians in Greece, there are still obstacles to full social, legal, economic and political participation for many, including those who have been living in the country for 3 decades and those who are second generation. The obstacles most frequently noted by the respondents are the following: legalisation, acquisition of citizenship by first and second generation immigrants and the assertion of social and welfare rights.
The event included a lively exploration of not only the research, but also the issues surrounding migration. Immigration is often regarded as a problem in Greece whereby foreigners are viewed as ‘the others’, instead of as people with common traits, Mr. Efthymiadis pointed out. Dr Manos added that one of their findings identified that immigration is perceived in a negative manner in countries where there is a very high level of national homogeneity in terms of language, ethnicity and religion leading it to being viewed as ‘damaging’ to the identity of the nation. This perception is greatly heightened during a financial crisis. The discussion between the panel and those actively participating ended with the general conclusion that immigration is not a ‘problem’ but a phenomenon.
The research was an opportunity for Albanian immigrants to describe in their own words, their experience, perceptions and general opinion on life in Greece, immigration and identity. The aim of the research itself was to document the complex issues of integration from the points of view of the Albanian and Greek community and to identify areas that were in need of improvement. The innovative style of this pioneering research focused on enabling subject voices to be ‘heard’ and its findings disseminated to decision-makers, state and municipal civil service personnel and community organisations in order to improve integration.
The project was funded by Foundation Open Society Institute in cooperation with the OSIFE of the Open Society Foundations. The research team was led by Dr Ioannis Manos (Assistant Professor in Social Anthropology Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki) and was composed of Dr Dora Papadopoulou (Social Researcher, PhD in Sociology); Ms Vassiliki Makrygianni (Researcher, PhD Candidate in Architecture (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)); and Mr Konstantinos Kolovos Social Researcher, Anthropologist.
The report on the research findings is available for download in Greek (http://cdrsee.org/sites/default/files/Communities%20in%20Greece_GR.pdf), and in English and Albanian will be available by the end of the month.