Albania: Italians move across Adriatic 'seeking work'

Chef prepares a pizza Many Italians arriving in Albania open restaurants

Italians are reportedly escaping the economic doldrums at home by moving to Albania for work, after decades of migration the other way.

About 19,000 Italians now have a residency permit for work or study in Albania - a country of only 3m people - according to Albanian government figures quoted by Italy's Il Messaggero daily. A growing number of Italians have made the short hop across the Adriatic Sea to work at Albanian universities and call centres, or open restaurants and other small businesses in the past two years, the paper says.

"It's a real boom," sociologist Rando Devole tells the paper. "That tells us a lot about the crisis in Italy, but also about Albania's growth through its own emigrants." He says the long history of Albanian immigration to Italy may be helping smooth the path for arriving Italians - for instance many Albanians already speak some Italian. It's thought about half a million Albanians came to Italy after the fall of the Communist regime in 1992.

Albania's ambassador to Italy Neritan Cheka says his country has simpler regulations for businesses and faster economic growth than Italy, which has been struggling with a mountain of public debt since the onset of the eurozone crisis. "Albanians are more optimistic than Italians at the moment," Cheka adds. Albania's welfare minister, Erio Veliaj even went as far calling his country a "small America" for Italians last month, according to the ANSA news agency.

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