Albanian boys are being trafficked to the UK to join organised crime gangs, according to a report by The Telegraph.
According to the report, Steve Harvey, an international law enforcement specialist who presented his evidence to the Home Office said that “the majority of Albanian boys and young men are trafficked with the complicity of their parents and the promise of financial remuneration by the traffickers.”
He explained how families are approached by traffickers and engaged with on the basis of how they will profit financially from the deal. Additionally, the family are the traffickers and the children are seen and used as resources.
The UK National Crime Agency found that Albania is the biggest single source of people trafficking into the country, with 947 known cases referred to them in 2018 alone. This represents an increase of 50% since 2015. Court records analysed by The Telegraph showed that teenage Albanians have entered the UK, usually hidden in lorries, and have ended up being prosecuted for being caught with drugs totalling as much as GBP 200,000.
The Telegraph states that in some cases, family members were “directly responsible” for the recruitment and exploitation of male trafficking victims. It was found that gangs in London were promoting their lifestyle to teenagers in Albania, using social media in a bid to entice them.
Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers, an Albanian specialist at Bournemouth University, told The Telegraph that “blingbling” is key: “Sending messages home to their peers of success featuring an abundance of money, speedy cars, women, gold necklaces and Rolex watches, branding also guns and power.”
According to Schwander-Sievers, families were also paying as much as GBP 15,000 to have their children smuggled into the UK in the hope of giving them a decent future.
Exit spoke to one 23-year-old Albanian who had paid some EUR 5,000 to be smuggled into the UK. Once there, he wanted to study and support himself by working. Unable to make ends meet financially, he started selling cannabis and small quantities of cocaine for a local gang but was caught and deported back to Albania. Now with a criminal record and limitations on his right to travel and reside, his future is bleak.
“I wanted to be an engineer and get a job with a big international company- now I cannot finish my studies and I cannot get a good job,” he said.
Another man who had just turned 19 spoke of how he was promised a job in the UK against payment of around EUR 8,000. He was told to hide inside the cabin of a lorry in France but was discovered upon arrival in the UK. He was then deported back to Albania where his wife and young son live, EUR 8,000 worse off.
Exit contacted the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment but no reply was forthcoming at the time of publication.