Present in Albania for centuries, the Roma and Egyptians are one of the special ethnic groups settled all over the country, mainly in the Western and Southern parts of Albania. The end of socialism marked the beginning of the Roma’s and Egyptians decline from relative well-being to extreme poverty. They currently constitute the poorest and most marginalized group in Albania. Low skills, discrimination, and the collapse of many state-owned industrial and agricultural enterprises during the transition period have contributed to mass unemployment, along with rising illiteracy rates and deteriorating of health, infrastructure, and housing conditions.
Because of high unemployment in the formal labor market, Roma and Egyptians seek employment in the informal labor market. When income from the informal labor is insufficient to meet daily needs Roma and Egyptians seek alternative poverty-coping methods such as international migration and, as last resort prostitution and drugs. Forms of cognitive and structural social capital have also emerged during transition to assist families in coping with poverty and economic insecurity in the absence of traditional forms of social organizations and government programs. However, social capital is fragile and does not pull families out of poverty.
According to CESS studies, the causes of poverty and social exclusion for Roma and Egyptians in Albania are lack of education, lack of employment, and weak basic infrastructure. The symptoms of poverty and social exclusion are seen in their informal sector activities, – migration, dependence on aid, and drugs, – which they employ as coping strategies in their daily lives. However, while these coping strategies help to sustain their livelihoods at the edges of mainstream society, these equally constitute further constraints and barriers to their inclusion as de facto traps into poverty and social exclusion. Consequently, effective policies are needed to address the multiple dimensions of their poverty and social exclusion and overcome existing social, institution, and political barriers.
By several research projects, CESS has generated recommendations on policy formulation for some of the key issues of Roma and Egyptian communities in Albania including:
- Mapping Roma communities in Albania;
- Assessing social-economic needs;
- Roma migration;
- Political empowerment of Roma/Egyptian communities and their participation in local elections;
- Roma and Human Rights, etc.
Mapping Roma children in Albania
The project “Mapping Roma Children in Albania” was funded by UNICEF in 2011 and implemented by CESS, aiming to map all Roma settlements in Albania. The map and main findings are available in the website www.sidaalbania.org. Alongside the map “Background report to the web based Mapping of Roma Children in Albania” is prepared, which presents the main findings of the study.
If you click on the Roma Community option a link with the Albanian map will be revealed showing 108 settlements where Roma communities were identified during 2011. If you click on one of the dots in the map, a new page opens showing a photo from the respective community. Moreover two other pages will provide in Albanian and English the quantitative data for this community. Data include Roma population, the number of Roma children living in the respective settlement, the number of children following education, the number of families entitled to social aid, distance from public service institutions (kindergartens, schools, healthcare centres, hospitals etc.).