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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Would-Be Refugees Wait in Squalor

DURRES, Albania -- Hundreds of filthy men sprawl sleeping on rubbish-strewn mounds of grass in the railroad yard outside Albania's main port.


They are not drunks sleeping off a binge, but would-be refugees waiting for a ship to dock in Durres before carrying them from Albania's chaos, to Italy.


The men are exhausted from a night spent huddled around campfires. The first touch of morning sun glinting off the Adriatic provided the warmth necessary to finally fall asleep. Entire families are living among the rusted boxcars, broken glass and junked automobiles.


"I sleep with my two children and my husband on bits of cardboard. We have a few blankets, but it is still very cold at night," said Parashqevi Flamuri, 38, who has been living in the squatter's camp outside the port for five days. "Food and water are my biggest worries."


About 1,000 people are still living rough outside the port of Durres, the country's largest. Two or three times that number were here a few days ago, but most have drifted off after losing hope of ever catching a ship.


Small craft are picking up paying passengers from beaches along the coast and ferrying them to rusting boats for the journey to Italy.


The people camped under the watchful eyes of police patrolling the port are the poorest of the poor, unable to afford the several hundred dollars it costs for passage from a beach.


"We lived on a little money every month from the government," said Flamuri's wife. "Then we sold our flat to get money for the investment companies, so now we have no home. I would sell my children to get out of this country."