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Egyptians in Albania

  • Profile

    The 2011 census recorded 3,368 self-declared Egyptians (Jevgits or Jevgs) in Albania. In contrast, according to the Union of the Egyptians of Albania and other estimates, there are approximately 200,000–250,000 Albanian Egyptians. Most Egyptians reside in the cities of Tirana, Korça, Berat, Gjirokastra, Vlora, Durres, Shkodra, Elbasan, as well as in the smaller settlements.

    History

    The substantial Albanian Egyptian community see themselves as distinct from the Roma community. According to some narratives, Egyptians are descendants of Coptic migrants who came from Egypt in the fourth century. Other accounts say they are descended from Egyptian slaves who arrived in Albania in the nineteenth century.

    Current issues

    Many Albanian Egyptians consider themselves to be a national minority distinct from both the Roma community and the Albanian majority, defining themselves by their ethnic background, their stated historical roots as descendants of persons from Egypt, their traditions and their cultural heritage. However, the authorities long refused to grant official minority status to Egyptians, thereby denying them constitutional protections against discrimination available to other members of minority groups. The government maintained that Egyptians did not meet some criteria, such as a distinct language and traditions, and instead considered them a community – rather than a distinct minority. This changed in 2017 with the new Law on Protection of National Minorities, which granted Egyptians official recognition alongside other minority communities.

    While Egyptians have their own distinct identity, many of the issues they face are similar to the larger Roma community. Egyptians encounter segregation in housing and education as well as exclusion from formal employment opportunities. According to a 2015 UN report cited by the OECD, while 80 per cent of ethnic Albanians reached at least lower secondary level education, only 49 per cent of Egyptians did so.

    The National Action Plan for the Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma and Egyptians was renewed from 2021-25. It has seven priority sectors including access to education, employment, housing, health and social services. The 2019 monitoring report of the preceding Action Plan noted some improvements, including the fact that more Egyptians were being reached by social services. However, the report stated that there remained several serious gaps, notably in access to employment, funding for housing and education. Egyptian community representatives seek a separate action plan targeting their own particular needs. Previous initiatives have not succeeded in addressing Egyptian community concerns, especially in healthcare, employment and housing. Lack of properly disaggregated data prevents the Egyptian community’s needs from being thoroughly assessed.

    The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in the case of X and others v. Albania (applications nos. 73548/17 and 45521/19) announced on 31 May 2022 will hopefully lead to better access to education for Albania’s Egyptians. The case was brought by Roma applicants, although its outcome will affect Egyptian students too. It concerned the Naim Frasheri School situated on the outskirts of the city of Korça. The school was colloquially labelled the ‘Roma and Egyptian school’, because virtually all its students belong to either of these two communities. Segregation at the school appeared to increase in 2012 following an outflow of ethnic Albanian students from a formerly ethnically mixed institution. The ECtHR found a violation of Article 1, Protocol no.12 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court noted that the government had taken steps to desegregate the school but had failed to implement sufficient measures aimed at desegregation of ethnic groups within a reasonable period of time. Albania is also obliged to remove discriminatory school segregation and ensure effective desegregation of the education process.

Updated February 2024

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