Three Albanian Women

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"You Don’t Have to Be a Migrant to Understand"

Ghalia has been a migrant since 2006, when she left her native Algeria to study in Spain - and where she fell in love. Six years later she moved to Albania with her husband.

“I can’t express how much difficult was the beginning. I used to live in a well-developed Algerian rural area with more than 5,000 inhabitants and I ended up in a very poor Albanian village with just 13 households, with almost no facilities, no roads, no transportation. It was extremely difficult for me,” she recalls.

Despite the warm welcome, when the couple moved to the capital Tirana their problems persisted. All Ghalia wanted was a job with purpose.

Finally, in 2018 she spotted an advertisement from a local NGO looking for a translator for migrants from the Middle East and Arabic countries. “I was moved immediately by this call. Something beyond the job position was calling me, the desire to serve to those in need, to migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers” she says.

The fact that she is fluent in Berber, Arabic, Spanish, English, Albanian and French meant she was the top candidate and finally found her calling. In 2019 she moved to IOM, supporting people who wish to return home, counselling, translating, offering information to migrants and guiding them through the different process.

She loves her work, but finds working with refugees, migrants and people on the move to be extremely challenging. “You have to be strong and compassionate enough to hear the stories of people who are victims of trafficking, victims of war, torture, extreme poverty. You meet unaccompanied children and unprotected women, people in deep need for health services, food, clothes and other basic needs.

“You don’t need to be a migrant to feel and understand them, it’s enough to be a human being.”

She is also involved with integration, and she especially loves to see new lives begin as migrant and refugee families take root in Albania. “The most beautiful moments for me have been when assisting pregnant women in their routine health checks, meeting with doctors, going to the hospital and witnessing the newborns coming into their families,” she smiles.

Work became difficult during the first lockdown in March last year. “it was challenging to as we were not allowed to move. We communicated with our clients through the phone and internet trying to offer information and guidance.

“Although the number of the refugees decreased during the COVID time, the health needs and the risk was much higher. They had no idea how to protect themselves, no masks, no protection at all. It was really hard,” says Ghalia.

This is something that has been addressed by IOM, who provide medical advice, medication and health supplies to 217 refugees and asylum-seekers in Tirana.


"Being a Woman is Not Always Easy"

“Being a woman is not always easy. A lot is expected of us, in the family, in society and at work. Loving your job, treating the people you serve with dignity, putting passion and heart there makes the difference.”

Those are the words of Klara, who has been working with Albanian State Police since 2015.

The mother of an eight-year-old boy works at the Border Crossing Point, Kakavija, Gjirokastra, in the south of Albania where a Temporary Reception Center has been established by IOM in 2020 with EU support

Despite COVID – 19 she must perform her daily tasks in compliance with the required standards: processing travelers, including vulnerable migrants, victims of trafficking, and unaccompanied children. These people are then referred by Klara to receive appropriate services and protection.

The pandemic has posed challenges to all, and in particular to frontline staff, receiving and processing migrants. “We are there to quickly process, identify vulnerabilities and evaluate the situation to decide the best referral path to protection here in Albania”, she says.

“Focus on the Solution”

 “Focus on the solution not the problem”. That’s the mantra of Eneda, a medical officer in the emergency department of the Regional Hospital in Gjirokastra.

She’s has been working there for five years, providing medical screening and health services to migrants at the Kakavija Border Crossing Point and in the temporary reception centre for migrants in Gerhot.

“Assisting to refugees and asylum seekers is challenging in pandemic conditions, but the challenges are manageable when the team comes together and focuses on protection efforts for vulnerable individuals,” adds Eneda.

“We are challenged every day, and at the same time we are encouraged every day, by having the opportunity to help people in need, but being there to listen, offer information and basic needs to them. Our biggest reward is when we receive a smile back from other children, women and men, and elderly people. Every day I remind to myself that everyone could be in their place: me, my children, my family”.