Albanians in the United Kingdom
|Regions with significant populations|
|London (Barking, Wood Green, Hounslow, Woolwich, Swiss Cottage, Camden), Birmingham, Oxford|
|Albanian and English|
|Islam, Roman Catholicism, Secularism|
The history of the Albanian community in the UK began at the start of the twentieth century when a small group of Albanians arrived in this country. Among them was one of the greatest of Albanian intellectuals, Faik Konica, who moved to London and continued to publish a periodical, Albania. Just after World War II there were about 100 Albanians in Britain. The majority of them were from Albania; very few were from Kosovo. The 1991 Census records that there were only 338 registered Albanians in England. By 1993, the figure had grown to 2,500. Most of them were young Kosovars avoiding conscription in the Yugoslav Army, who had requested political asylum. In June 1996, a High Court decision accepted that Kosovo Albanians were persecuted in former Yugoslavia. This implied that all Kosovar Albanians should be given leave to remain in Britain. After this decision, Britain was faced with a sudden, large influx of Kosovo Albanians and Albanians from Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The Home Office has not revealed as yet any figure for Kosovar asylum seekers but by the end of 1997 the Albanian community estimated the number at 30,000.
The majority of Kosovo Albanians who arrived in England before 1996 settled in London. Most of them were young and well-educated. A considerable number of them continued with their studies at universities in London and elsewhere. In 1992, Albanians living in London formed a cultural club, Faik Koniica, named after the great Albanian intellectual (and later a diplomat) who had lived in London at the turn of the century. The club became popular and was transformed in 1995 into an Albanian community centre.
Many of the members of Albanian anti-communist groups from Albania who moved to Britain after World War II were intellectuals. They joined the Anglo-Albanian Association, which was established by English intellectuals at the beginning of the twentieth century. During the 1960s, another British organisation for friendship with Albania was founded. It was called the Albania Society. The Albania Society continued to support left-wing politicians in Albania and Kosovo. The Anglo-Albanian Association, which is more influential in British politics, supports right-wing Albanians.
It was difficult for Albanians to organise themselves as a distinct group. Young Albanians, who wanted more engagement, formed the LDK (Democratic League of Kosova) in 1991. The same group of people, supported by the Prishtina political establishment, formed the Kosova Information Centre in 1992. During the same year, Kosovo Aid, a charitable organisation, took shape and became very active between 1997 and 2001. The Kosova Information Centre was set up to inform the British government about the situation in Kosovo and the aspirations of Kosovar Albanians. This centre still exists but will cease operating when the Kosovo Embassy is established in autumn 2008.
The Albanian community in the United Kingdom can be characterised as a new diaspora. The UK was not a traditional destination for Albanian emigration. Albanian Zogists (the supporters of King Zog) and Ballists (the supporters of the nationalists from Albania and Kosovo), who settled in the UK after World War II, were too few in number to be classified as a diaspora. A more appropriate term was the “Albanian émigré community”. There was also a small group of Enverist Albanians who fled the repression after the Albanian demonstrations in Kosovo in 1981.
This situation changed radically in the 1990s. A large influx of Albanians from Kosovo and Macedonia, on the one hand, and from Albania, on the other, marked the beginning of the creation of the Albanian diaspora in the United Kingdom. There was a wave of Albanians arriving in the UK throughout the 1990s, following the abolition of Kosovo’s autonomy by the repressive Serbian communist regime, and the implementation of repressive and brutal policies in Kosovo. The number of Albanians in the UK went up again with the outbreak of armed conflict in other parts of former Yugoslavia, specifically in Kosovo after 1996. The number grew even more in 1999 during the NATO campaign against Serbia (or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as it was then called).
There are no official estimates of the size of the Albanian community living in the UK. They vary according to agencies and community organisations. The majority of the respondents, and of those interviewed, believe that there could be anything from 70,000 to 100,000 Albanians in the UK. Around 70% - 80% of them are believed to be living in London.
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