The number of inhabitants is 13,900 (2003; 21st rank in Albania).
Burrel used to be a miners' town but the mines are closed now. A ferrochrome plant is still working near Burrel.
During the Kosovo conflict there was a refugees' camp near Burrel for 2000 people.
The city used to be the site of one of the most terrible prisons of the communist regime where ordinary criminals and political prisoners such as Bashkim Shehu and Fatos Lubonja were held. The political prisoners used to be condemned for attempts of overthrowing the state power or anti-communist propaganda and agitation for terms of at least 20 years. Often they were re-condemned while in prison. After the fall of the communist regime, the government of the Democrat Party closed the prison and made it a prison-museum. However in 1997, Sali Berisha readopted it as an active prison.