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Bathore. Photo: flickr/andrea pi

Bathore is a shanty town of illegal buildings in Kamza municipality near Tirana.  In the early 1990s, Kamza was just a rural area on the outskirts of Tirana with a population of roughly 7,000. Land privatisation and the free movement of population brought a huge influx of migrants from Albania's northeast. The turmoil following the collapse of the communist regime in 1990, as well as a lack of institutional support, caused many to move to the vicinity of large cities in the search for opportunities.

All this construction was illegal, and initially there was no infrastructure at all. Clarissa de Waal has described the motivation of these early squatters who settled on the outskirts of Albania's mayor cities:

"The shanty dwellers were condemned to go on living in conditions which were extremely stressful for adults and responsible for a high illness rate amongst their children. … Someone always had to be around to ward off thieves. The youngest children often looked weak and unhealthy, badly affected by the mosquitoes in summer and poor hygiene all the year round since little water could be spared for washing and there was no canalisation.

… I once asked an acquaintance with a sick baby and two small children (three older ones continued to live with her parents-in-law in Fushe Arrez): "Is it really worse for you in Fushe Arrez? "You cannot have been to Fushe Arrez," she replied."It's a terrible place, so steep there's almost no land. My husband's one of seven brothers; they have seventy square metres of land. The mine's closed. We've been down here for two years." … a plain with fertile land, close to the port of Durres, only an hour's drive from the capital, and the hope of a house in the near future, was indisputable preferable." (de Waal, 2005, p. 238)

It is hard to estimate the population of the informal settlements since the municipality is only able to register about 60% of new arrivals. Some estimate that Kamza municipality's population grew 10-fold between 1990 and 2003.

Starting from a population of 7,000 this is incredibly fast growth, especially considering that these estimates are not far below the current population of Durres, Albania's second largest city. Notwithstanding Albania's recent growth, the economic prospects for these newcomers may be limited. Widespread unemployment among a rapidly expanding population adds to the stresses on a an under-resourced  local authority, which is facing serious problems in the provision of infrastructure and basic services, such as sanitation, water and electricity.

The World Bank, Unicef and a number of NGOs have improved conditions through the construction of a school, as well as a hospital and the gradual provision of drainage and water systems.

May 2008

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