The Government of Albania does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts through 2016 by prosecuting and convicting more traffickers than in previous years and using, for the first time, its “special fund” towards victim protection from assets seized from traffickers. The government increased funding to the Office of the National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator (ONAC). ONAC trained over 1,000 government workers, judges, prosecutors, and civil society partners on trafficking issues.
Albania is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labor, including the forced begging of children. Albanian victims are subjected to conditions of forced labor and sex trafficking within Albania and Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Western Europe. Approximately half of the victims referred for care within the country are Albanian; these are primarily women and girls subjected to conditions of forced prostitution in hotels and private residences. Children are primarily exploited for begging and other forms of forced labor. There is evidence that Albanian men have been subjected to conditions of forced labor in the agricultural sector of Greece and other neighboring countries.
Even a cursory search on Google for ‘Trafficking Albania’ brings a plethora of stories of women and children being trafficked for the sex industry. Many stories also suggest that organ harvesting and selling is not uncommon. This appears to be linked very much to Kosovo.
Seya was just 14 when she left a violent family home. She was sold into a trafficking ring by a man she thought was her boyfriend, and found herself in a terrifying network of underground crime, unable to distinguish between the pimps and their victims. She was forced for months to sleep with several men a day, and "international clients" who paid more at night.
"I hate them," she said, speaking with remarkable composure for someone so young. "I want them to get the punishment that they deserve, because to be under someone's thumb, to do the things they want you to do for them... They steal your freedom - they use you, rule you - I don't know, it's very degrading."
Seya's story is sadly far from unique. Albania is a small country in which trafficking - trading in human beings - took hold in the years after the collapse of communism in 1990.
Foreign victims from European countries, Philippines, and Nigeria are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Albania. Irregular migrants from Asia are increasingly employed as domestic workers by wealthy families where they are vulnerable to domestic servitude. Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and African migrants transit Albania to reach Western Europe and are vulnerable to trafficking.
In 2016, the government trained 75 judges and 20 police officers on investigation and prosecution of traffickers and victim protection. The government, in cooperation with an international organization, trained 388 officials in 12 regions on victim identification, referral, and assistance.
Three specialized NGO-run shelters and one state-run shelter provide assistance to trafficking victims, including food, counseling, legal assistance, medical care, educational services, employment services, assistance to victims’ children, financial support, long-term accommodation, social activities, vocational training, and post-reintegration follow-up. Financial mechanisms used to fund these shelters annually are complicated and open to manipulation by local governments.
First responders followed a standard operating procedure for identifying and referring victims to services; however, the government deactivated mobile identification units because international donors no longer provided support and the government lacked the funds to continue the units.
NGOs reported law enforcement jailed victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. For example, a female trafficking victim was convicted of prostitution and sentenced to 16 months imprisonment, of which she served nine months. Another victim was sentenced to 18 months probation but won her case on appeal.
Government officials have increased public attention to trafficking in Albania. There are serious concerns, however, about protection for victims who testified against their traffickers. The government has not vigorously prosecuted labor trafficking offenders. Because of lack of political will and cooperation in some key government agencies, the government has sometimes been less than vigorous in its prosecution of human trafficking.
There is a need to implement a law that exempts victims from penalties for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, particularly sex trafficking victims exploited in prostitution.
Articles 110(a) and 128(b) of the criminal code prohibit sex and labor trafficking and prescribe penalties of 8 to 15 years imprisonment.
The government provided anti-trafficking guidance for its diplomatic personnel, and the national coordinator briefed Albanian diplomats stationed in nine cities on human trafficking regulations.