In the 19th century, Albanians emigrated to other Balkan countries (Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece), and to Egypt and Russia. During the first decades of the 20th century, emigration—for economic reasons—was primarily to the US (largely to Massachusetts), Argentina, Australia, and France. Emigration following World War II has occurred on a very limited scale, mainly for political reasons. Between 1945 and 1990, Albania has remained virtually isolated from the rest of Europe. In the early 1990s, about 2 million Albanians lived in Serbia and Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia). Many ethnic Albanians live in Greece, Italy, and Macedonia.
By the beginning of June 1997, rebel factions controlled most southern towns in the country. In 1997, there was an Italian-led multinational force of 6,000 foreign peacekeeping troops ready to aid in preventing thousands of Albanians from fleeing into Greece or Italy. As of 2001, Albania had a net migration rate of -19 migrants per 1,000 population. This amounted to a loss of 60,000 people. The government continues to view the migration levels as satisfactory.
During the NATO air strikes in the spring of 1999, Albania hosted 465,000 refugees from Kosovo. Two-thirds were hosted by more than 29,000 families, aided by UNHCR; 20% lived in tented camps; and 13% stayed in collective centers. Adoption of the Kosovo Peace Plan on 10 June 1999 prompted the return of tens of thousands of refugees. Estimates suggest that some 432,500 refugees have returned to Kosovo from Albania. At the end of 2000, there were only about 500 refugees remaining in Albania.
Remittances from Albanians working abroad amounted to $531 million in 2000, which was approximately 14.1% of GDP.