Albania on the globe
Albania on the globe
Squatted building in Tirana, 2018
Squatted building in Tirana, 2018
An informal settlement at Durrës train station
An informal settlement at Durrës train station

Squatting in Albania began on a large scale in the 1990s, with internal migration towards former collectivised farmland and informal settlements on the periphery of the capital Tirana. Bathore near to Tirana had 40,000 squatters by the early 2000s. The Agency of Legalization, Upgrading, and Integration of Informal Zones and Buildings (ALUIZNI) had legalized 16,500 homes on 152 settlements by 2009. As of 2020, 25 per cent of the population of Albania's cities lived in informal settlements.

History

In pre-Communist Albania, respect for private property was enforced and squatting was not tolerated. During the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, Enver Hoxha (who was leader of the country from 1945 until his death in 1985), immediately outlawed private title to land on coming to power.[1] After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Republic of Albania was formed in 1991 when communism fell. The country was in a poor state and public order broke down. A third of all schools were severely damaged and health centres were also attacked, with 65 per cent either being destroyed or squatted.[2] The headquarters of the SHIK (the internal intelligence agency) were occupied in Peshkopi.[3] There was a high degree of corruption in the distribution of land and there were cases of squatter households being offered land for free in exchange for sending young family members abroad as sex workers.[1] Catholic organisations have bought up land specifically to house Catholic squatters.[1] Refugees from the breakup of Yugoslavia also squatted in Albania throughout the 1990s.[4]

From 1990 onwards, mountain dwellers had been sending family members to squat land and grow wheat on formerly collectivised farms in the plains near Durrës, Lezhë and the capital Tirana.[1] Other occupations occurred in Gjirokastër, Korçë, Shkodër and Vlorë.[5] The government could take years to contact the squatters and at that point they could bribe local officials to stave off eviction.[6] There was also internal migration from the poor northern regions to Tirana, with informal settlements being established on its periphery. Between 1989 and 2010, the number of inhabitants of Tirana increased from 300,000 to 650,000. The largest new settlement was on former agricultural land at Bathore, just to the north of Tirana, where the squatters built spacious multi-storey houses.[4]

In April 1995, the government announced that the Bathore squatters would be evicted. In response, they took the deputy prime minister Tritan Shehu hostage and the government was forced to back down, later claiming Bathore was a model settlement and promising to legalize it;[1] President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn later visited the site.[4] By April 2003, the 40,000 squatters were tired of the unmet promises and told the government that if progress was not made by 21 April they would start an insurrection. There was no response, so on 24 April they blocked the main road and marched on Tirana; the government then pledged to meet all ten demands of the squatters except the one requesting a hospital.[1] Squatters from other areas such as the 22,000 inhabitants of Kënet also protested.[1] By 2012, Bathore had paved roads and a public transport link to Tirana.[4]

Elsewhere, other squatters were evicted. For example in 1995 soon after the settlers of Bathore fought off eviction, 170 squatters on the Lezhë plain were evicted.[1] The following year, the Albanian Police battled hundreds of squatters when it enforced an eviction order in the northern suburbs of Tirana.[7]

Squatters have sometimes occupied severely polluted sites, such as a derelict factory in Vlorë or the former chemical plant at Porto Romano in Durrës. As of 2002, around 6,000 people were living on the contaminated site at Durrës. Chemicals such as chlorobenzene, chromium 6 and lindane were present at dangerously high levels yet the squatters distrusted officials who warned them and the state had no budget to secure the site.[8][9] The World Heritage Site Butrint National Park has been looted in periods of instability, so squatters there have been tolerated as guardians against theft and poaching.[8]

Recent events

During the 2005 parliamentary elections, the Democratic Party proposed legalizing the squatter settlements, following the ideas of Hernando De Soto. Once in power, it gave land titles to squatters, compensated owners of land from pre-Communist times that had been squatted and upgraded settlements. The Agency of Legalization, Upgrading, and Integration of Informal Zones and Buildings (ALUIZNI) was founded and by 2009 it had legalized 16,500 homes on 152 settlements. It had also identified 10,000 homes that were existing in unpermitted areas and was able to evict homes that were blocking the construction of public infrastructure.[4] The director of ALUIZNI estimated there were 400,000 illegallly constructed buildings country-wide.[10] As of 2020, 25 per cent of the population of Albania's cities lived in informal settlements.[11]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h de Waal, Clarissa (2004). "Post-socialist Property Rights and Wrongs in Albania: An Ethnography of Agrarian Change". Conservation and Society. 2 (1): 19–50. ISSN 0972-4923.
  2. ^ Sewell, David; Wallich, Christine I. Fiscal Decentralization and Intergoernmental Finances in the Republic of Albania. World Bank Publications. pp. 5–6. ISBN 978-0-7161-4194-5.
  3. ^ Abrahams, Fred C. (March 2016). Modern Albania: From Dictatorship to Democracy in Europe. NYU Press. p. 232. ISBN 978-1-4798-3809-7.
  4. ^ a b c d e Pojani, Dorina (2013). "From Squatter Settlement to Suburb: The Transformation of Bathore, Albania". Housing Studies. 28 (6): 805–821. doi:10.1080/02673037.2013.760031.
  5. ^ Vullnetari, Julie (2012). Albania on the Move: Links Between Internal and International Migration. Amsterdam University Press. p. 102. ISBN 978-90-8964-355-1.
  6. ^ de Waal, Clarissa (1998). "From Laissez-faire to Anarchy in Post-Communist Albania". Cambridge Anthropology. 20 (3): 21–44. ISSN 0305-7674.
  7. ^ Cota, Lulzim (24 September 1996). "Albanian riot police clash with squatters". UPI. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  8. ^ a b Woodard, Colin (1 November 2002). "Albania: A tale of two cities". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 58 (6): 12–14. doi:10.2968/058006004.
  9. ^ Filčák, Richard (2010). "Migration to Contaminated Sites: Migrants' Settlements in Central and Eastern Europe Built in Places with High Environmental and Social Vulnerability". In Afifi, Tamer; Jäger, Jill (eds.). Environment, Forced Migration and Social Vulnerability. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 136. ISBN 978-3-642-12416-7.
  10. ^ Governance in the Protection of Immovable Property Rights in Albania: A Continuing Challenge (PDF). World Bank. 2012. p. 4.
  11. ^ Pojani, Dorina; Baar, Kenneth (2020). "The legitimacy of informal settlements in Balkan States". Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe. 28 (2–3): 135–153. doi:10.1080/25739638.2020.1833563.

Further reading