Emiljan Sinjari, the former employee of an airport security company in Albania has been arrested on charges of human trafficking.
The accused belonged to a transnational organised crime group that use fake ID cards to smuggle people into the US, UK, and Canada. It is reported that they charged up to $30,000 per person for the service.
Last week, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported the Albanian police has recently detained 19 Albanian and Turkish citizens with fake European IDs trying to illegally reach London from Tirana airport. It added that Albanian human traffickers are using new ways to forge documents with stolen European IDs.
The Albanian Serious Crimes Court had issued a warrant for his arrest, but somehow Emiljan was still allowed to flee to Italy. There, as a part of a joint effort between the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), Assistant Regional Security Office- Investigations (ARSO-I), Europol, Interpol, the Italian Police, and the Albanian State Police arrested and extradited him to Albania.
If found guilty, Sinjari faces up to 15 years in prison. Alongside him, an additional 50 persons were arrested for their crimes associated with a total of seven different criminal organisations.
Human trafficking is a big problem in Albania with women and children being at a particularly high risk of sex trafficking and forced labour. The US State Department noted in its 2019 trafficking report that traffickers use false promises such as marriage and employment and instead traffic them across Europe.
The report also noted that the Albanian government does “not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking”. In 2019, the lowest number of trafficking investigations, prosecutions and convictions were reported in four years.
They were also criticised for delaying funds to NGO-run shelters as well as not consistently applying victim-centred approaches to investigations and prosecutions.
The Department recommended that the Albanian government “vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers—including complicit officials—under Articles 110(a) and 128(b) of the criminal code” as well as providing comprehensive training for members of the judiciary and law enforcement.
In November 2018, the OCCRP wrote about the upsurge of trafficking victims in the UK that are brought from Albania and sold as commodities.
In 2017 alone, 5,145 human trafficking victims were identified in the UK, the majority of which were Albanians who were forced into the sex industry or exploited for cheap labour. These gangs were also found to be involved in drug smuggling, money laundering, and firearms trafficking as well.
The US State Department also found that drug trafficking and money laundering was being allowed to thrive in Albania due to a culture of impunity, the corruption of officials, and a general failure to adequately investigate, prosecute and convict those involved in illicit activities.