Tourists and Trafficking: A Response to Lazy Journalism – Exit

I will admit to being once again frustrated by recent reports in the UK press.

On the one hand, amazing Albania is being discovered by people from all walks of life: this land is no longer the sole domain of the intrepid explorer. All in all, that’s a good thing for this country of majestic but malevolent mountains and sublime but often broken sands.

Increased popularity from foreign tourists will lead to investment; we can hope, in infrastructure, a meaningful engagement with the protection of natural ecosystems, education and health care. Of course, tourism can bring its pitfalls – many of which Albania is already doing with its desire to welcome, to grow, to be known, which disappoints me – and which is often overlooked in the views and reports of those who visit them for a long time. several days at a time.

On the other hand, you may have noticed an increase in reports about the nationality of many of those trying to either seek asylum or gain access to life in the UK through economic means. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a slew of articles accusing seemingly every Albanian trying to get to the UK of having set out with nefarious intentions to capitalize on the drug trade or even human trafficking.

However, now there is a new element to this lazy reporting: how can Albanians want to leave their country when so many foreigners declare it a pearl, a jewel in the fading crown of European tourism?

I will not give the articles the merit of quoting them, their caricatures of Albanians belong well to the past. However, their argument is simple: if it’s good enough for tourists, why isn’t it good enough to live there?

I am not here to dispute the number of Albanians trying to reach the UK, illegally or legally; I am not here to dispute the number of Albanians currently in UK prisons, nor the number who have recently been deported following the latest agreement drawn up and delivered by the Home Secretary with the Albanian Government. I’m here to challenge the idea that if a place is an idyllic holiday for a tourist, it must be a paradise to live in.

Imagine suggesting to someone living in a London tenement, fearful about how to feed their family today and heat their home in the days to come, that their fears are misplaced and misplaced because of the number of tourists who have returned to excellent capital restrictions after the pandemic? Your fears are misplaced because the crowds descending on the Tower of London, Westfield, Hyde Park and the West End show us that London really is a glorious place to be!


I’ve been visiting, living and working in Albania off and on for 16 years, and lately, I’ve spent more time living in Tirana than in London. It is a vibrant, passionate and beautiful country with much to offer Europe and the world. But it is naive to think that my experience as a foreigner is the same as an Albanian living in a suburb of the capital, a city beyond investment or in a remote village. Of course, a tourist from Great Britain, Germany or the Netherlands has a good time here – they are earning much more than the average €350 (figures vary) monthly Albanian income.

A significant majority of Albanians I have spoken to about this (interestingly, except for those who have spent a significant amount of time abroad) would leave if given the chance. Even the most patriotic people I’ve spoken to admit that they expect their lives to be easier abroad. The “brain drain”, especially as Albania continues its path towards EU membership, is an ever-present concern: the grass, especially for many young Albanians, is greener elsewhere.

Recently, I visited south-central Albania with my husband, staying in a village outside the small town of Përmet. We had a wonderful time – Chri Chri Guesthouse was excellent, from the food to the finishes; however I do not live and have not lived every day in that village. Fascinating for my iPhone camera, but rarely challenging – the countryside consisted of all but seemingly a handful of properties that were impervious to water. During our visit, the temperature reached 43 degrees Celsius and there were no air-conditioned villas here. My experience as a guest in this village is completely incomparable to those who have built their lives there.

A lonely horse in the village of Leuë of Përmet.

A country is not the sum of its tourist experiences, nor the sum of its hardships. To present one as opposed to the other only creates a tension that cannot be resolved; it reveals anger at those who have sought economic security elsewhere (provided, sometimes illegally) and patronizes those who remain.

It is entirely possible for Albania to be a beautiful place to visit, explore and fall in love with, while at the same time realizing that for many Albanians it is a source of difficulty, complexity and mixed feelings.

Lazy and deliberately inflammatory journalism will never catch this; don’t want So please read between the lines: Albania is wider and more complicated than you think. Come and experience it, if I may be so bold as to extend an invitation as a long-term guest, but do so humbly – bearing the tensions that every country must face in one way or another.

You can follow Luke’s Substack here.

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