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Human trafficking in Albania

Human trafficking in Albania is a modern thing. It is something that started in about twelve years ago. This business mostly affects women and girls. Albania not only acts as an international supply base for women and girls for the sex trade but also as a major hub via which females from other countries are taken to the European markets. Most of women and girls end up being victims of this illegal business after either being kidnapped, being promised a legitimate employment or even marriages.

What are the factors that contributed to emergence of this business, why did this business thrive in this region and what measures are being taken by the Albanian government in controlling this human trafficking business? These will be the main focus of this paper. This business was brought about by the iron fist rules of Enver Hoxha who was an Albanian communist dictator. Albania at that time had a very fertile ground for that business to thrive. For example, there were high rates of poverty and unemployment, a crumbling infrastructure and the officials elected were very corrupt although Hoxha’s government tried to reverse this condition.

After his death this trend worsened. For these reasons, smuggling of drugs, women and weapons was very easy. In 1990s about 100,000 people mostly women and girls were exported to the western nations. http://www. unicef. org/albania/PROSCE-UNICEFtraPREngApr05. doc Human traffickers formed criminal organizations which were located at Tirana and other cities like Viora and Bekat. They relied on speed boats in transporting the captured victims across the Adriatic Sea to Italy. This was one of the trafficking strongholds. The northern regions of Albania were not affected by this trade than in other regions.

They were protected by the rural communities traditional codes that allowed female traffickers to be killed whenever they were caught however, lack of strong economic base forced many Albanian men and boys to go abroad in search of job opportunities. This undermined those traditional codes that prohibited human trafficking. Today human trafficking in Albania is the order of the day in that these victims come from allover the country and most particularly from rural areas where people live in abject poverty and where people are less educated.

Albania is one of these nations that export the youngest victims that are those whose age ranging from 14-35, infact about 80% of girls who are trafficked from Albania are younger than 18 years as per the 2000 Save the Children Report They are mostly taken to Italy where they are forced to work as prostitutes in streets. Others are trafficked to countries such as Belgium, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Greece. Most of these victims are sexually exploited and they never enjoy the fruits of their labor.

For example according to the report that was produced by the Save the Child Organization in 2001 teen aged Albanian prostitutes were supposed to charge about two hundred US dollars to five hundred and fifty US dollars a night but they were never given anything from that money. According to the 2006 trafficking in Persons Report Albania is the primary source for women and children who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and slavery. The report also shows that this Albanian organized crime is in charge of about 65% of all the illegal trade done in the Balkans.

Report show that Albania gangs almost control the off- street prostitution in the west end and Soho sections of London. http://www. savethechildren. org/jump. jsp? path=/publications/annual-reports/ar2005. pdf. In Albania human traffickers collude with the under paid police force so that they could turn a blind eye to this highly lucrative business. Women are either lured by criminals or tricked then, they are sold several times such that by the time they reach in Italy the price is twice the original.

A report that was produced by the Save the Children Organization shown that most of the teenage girls in Albania do not attend schools for fear that they could be captured and trafficked. This report concludes that a lot of children have either been cheated or abducted and then forced to work as prostitutes in other nations. Also children in Albania are also at risk of being trafficked. Hundreds of children are trafficked to Greece for forced work, begging and prostitution.

According to the report that was released in 2006 by the UNICEF; poverty, lack of proper care for street children and discrimination are some of the factors that promote this business in Albania. According to the same report, the rights of these children are neglected and the social policies that could protect the rights of these children by addressing their needs and to ensure they enjoy a free and save environment do not exist. Discrimination is also very prevalent in this region for example; Albanian children from the Roma community which is a minority receive an average of 4 years of education instead of 9.

5 which is expected for the whole population. http://www. columbia. edu/cu/opg/pub/research/2003/partII03. pdf As per the international organization for migration, 70% of trafficking cases that were investigated in Albania were of males and about 93% of them were underage males. For example, there was a case of a boy aged 8 years who was dragged off from the streets and taken to Greece where he was forced to work for a gang of criminals. Reports show that, children as young as five years old spend almost eight hours a day selling items like napkins and roses to tourists.

Greece is one of the destinations and transits for trafficking women and children. According to the (2003 United Nations report. p 48) Greece was among the top nine destinations a country for sex trafficking world wide. Most of these trafficked came from Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and Russia but the greatest contributor of those trafficked were from Albania. Before 2002, most Albanians were trafficked to Italy by speedboat but new legislations that were passed, stricter maritime patrols and effects by law enforcers hampered this business making most of them to be trafficked through Greece.

Children who are as young as four years old have been trafficked to Greece where they are either sexually or economically exploited. This happened mostly in 1990s but from 2000 due to the pressure from NGOs and other actors, measures such as border control and awareness were taken and have proved to be useful in fighting child trafficking. The most reason why children are trafficked is for economic purposes, infact economic exploitation is the most form of human abuse that is visible. Before 2000, the main form of economic exploitation was begging but now the trend has shifted to selling of small items like telephone cards and flowers.

Female children who were below the age of twelve were economically exploited but after attaining that age, they were sexually exploited (Tzvetkova, M. , March 2002, Vol. 10, No 1) Children have also been sold and trafficked for the purpose of being adopted in other nations. For example a Bulgarians couple was arrested in Crete soon after they confessed to have sold a newly born to an undercover police for five thousand US dollars. Other reports have shown that Albanian children are trafficked to Greece also so that some of their body organs could be removed and then sold such as human kidneys.

This aroused suspicions that made the judiciary to order an inquiry to the matter citing that there could have been an organized trafficking gang. Human trafficking vice started in Albania due to the transition to democracy. This led to the collapse of the economy and degradation in terms of the quality of social life. For these reason, there arose a very big problem of migration flows. This business flourished in Albania up to the end of communism in 1990 in the Balkan republic. During the rule of the former dictator Enver Hoxha’s Albania became the most isolated nation in Europe.

Enver ruled Albania from the end of Second World War until his death in 1985. He advocated for the adherence to revisionist Marxist- Leninism which later come to be referred to as ‘Hoxhaism’. He used the rule of Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union. Under this regime, many reforms were made. In 1950, this government took farmland from wealthy people and made it collective farms thereby averting famine and making it almost self sufficient. After his death, this isolation policy ended and one-party rule came to an end in 1990.

In 1992, the reformed socialist party won the elections. Trafficking of women as well as children became a big issue in 1990s after about a decade of communist rule. It is this transition from communism to democracy that made a fertile ground for criminal operations to materialize. Some of the things that led to this business of human trafficking were high level of unemployment, extreme rural poverty and also low status of women. Most of the rural families sold off their daughters although they knew the dangers they were subjecting them to.

This problem peaked after 1995 but of late, these cases have reportedly been said to be decreasing. This partly can be attributed to the agreement that was signed between Albania and Italy though the problem remains to be a challenge even today The current government can be said to be trying hard to control the trend after years of denial that trafficking had become a big problem in Albania today; somehow the course has been reversed. This change is greatly influenced by the desire to join the European Union for this could draw a lot of criticism from the country members.

The greatest move to fight this vice was made in 2001 when the Albanian government criminalized women and children trafficking. It also adopted a strategy of fighting the same. In conjunction with the government, the media is used to create awareness on the tricks used by the perpetrators. Also, (Limanowska B. , 2002, 102-105) the government is using non-governmental organizations to enlighten students on this issue. The government has also started patrolling the Adriatic part as from the year 2000 in collaboration with Italian government in attempt to reduce human trafficking using speedboats that ferry victims to Italy.

Today, (Albanian Civil Society Foundation, 2000, 20-32) Albania is being considered by regional and international experts to have to a certain degree ceased being the transit for victims of human trafficking in Western Europe. The government of Albania convicts all those that are involved in this illegal business for example in 2004 alone, about 132 traffickers were prosecuted. In the same year in September, a law was passed that required any accused trafficker to forfeit all his /her asset if unable to prove the legitimacy of the wealth in possession although these efforts were hampered by the corrupt officials.

According to the (2006 Annual Trafficking in Persons Report), the Albanian government sustained its modest efforts in protecting and reintegrating trafficked victims. There is also other groups that are fighting this vice for example the Albanian initiative called the Coordinated Action Against Human Trafficking (CAAHT) operates in the whole country and aims at preventing young adults and children from being trafficked. It is a six year program (2004-2009) that was initiated by the U.

S government. From 2005-2007 the government’s anti-trafficking strategy has been grounded on strategic framework, national action plan and other related strategies geared towards combating the vice. To conclude this essay, we can say that though this human trafficking was caused by lack of good government in place, the current government is trying hard to reverse this situation. It should be known that human trafficking is a crime against humanity and it should not be allowed to take place.

As it has been portrayed by the recent reports, fewer children are being trafficked today, fewer children are begging in Greece towns and fewer cases of women trafficking have been reported. This is a clear indicator of the effectiveness of the strategies that have been taken by the Albanian government. Though great strides have been made, the government still need to assess the effectiveness of awareness campaigns and socioeconomic problems should also be addressed as they are the root causes of the problem.


Albanian Civil Society Foundation, 2000. Guidebook on Non Governmental Organizations in Albania. Tirana. p. 20-32 Albanian organization for International Studies. , 2007. Blood Feud in Albania: Alternatives to Current Approach. Tirana. p. 4-5 (Peer reviewed) Department of Public Affairs, 2000. Save the Children Organization. Annual Report. Retrieved on January 19, 2008. http://www. savethechildren. org/jump. jsp? path=/publications/annual-reports/ar2005. pdf. Falkingham J. , 2001. Fertility Transition in Communist Albania 1950-1990: Population Studies. (Peer reviewed) p. 215-228 Ginsberg O. , 2003. Trace Trafficking From Community to Exploitation. Project Report: UNICEF, New York.

http://www. columbia. edu/cu/opg/pub/research/2003/partII03. pdf Limanowska B. , 2002. Trafficking in Human Beings in South Eastern Europe. Belgrade, Yugoslavia. p. 102-105 Tirana, 13 April 2005. Inadequate prevention. Retrieved on 15th January 2008. Retrieved on January 19, 2008. http://www. unicef. org/albania/PROSCE-UNICEFtraPREngApr05. doc Tzvetkova, M. , March 2002. NGO Responses to Trafficking in Women Gender and development. Vol. 10, No 1. United Nations Report, 2003. Trafficking of humans in Albania. p. 48 US Embassy Council in Public Relations, 2006. Trafficking in Persons Report.

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