European and Asia-Pacific Perspectives
Edited by Leslie Holmes
Chapter 6: Between Social Opprobrium and Repeat Trafficking: Chances and Choices of Albanian Women Deported from the UK
1 Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers Many people may have little idea about Albania, a small country in SouthEastern Europe with a population of 3.6 million, bordering the Ionian and Adriatic Seas. It emerged in the early 1990s from one of the most totalitarian Communist regimes as one of the poorest countries in Europe. During the nearly two decades following the dramatic regime changes in Eastern Europe, when Europe remained divided between ‘Western’ European Union (EU) and ‘Eastern’ non-EU member states (the latter including Albania2), the prosperous West became the recipient of a mass influx of informal Albanian labour migrants.3 Strong Albanophobic stereotypes have developed in response.4 Media and popular perceptions, particularly in the major European host countries – Greece, Italy and, further away, the United Kingdom (UK) – continue to associate Albanians in general with crime, violence and prostitution, regardless of the fact that most jobs in which Albanians have engaged abroad, typically low-skilled and below their qualifications, were not per se criminal, and that most Albanians are believed to have integrated successfully into their host communities (Vullnetari 2007). These Albanophobic stereotypes are usually gendered, in that ‘Albanian women have been presented as a particularly vulnerable nationality among trafficked women in Europe … [while] Albanian men are presented as dominating the new and violent mafias that have arrived in the EC from the Balkans’ (J. Davies 2009: 22). Unsurprisingly, given their criminal and hidden nature, there exist no reliable statistics on either of these two stereotypes that would allow the separation of myth from fact....
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