An Albanian woman who was a victim of sex trafficking but denounced her pimps to help authorities bust a vice ring has committed suicide in Italy after her refugee status was rejected.
Adelina Sejdini had been trafficked from Albania to Italy in 1996 at the age of just 22. She reported the gang to the police and helped them dismantle a pan-Italian ring of criminals specializing in the sexual exploitation of women.
Thanks to her information, more than 40 people were arrested belonging to the Albanian mafia.
She told the media, “If I go back to Albania, I am a dead woman. I am afraid of being killed by those I had arrested.”
Following her denunciations, she volunteered with an organization called City Angels to help young victims of sexual exploitation to escape from their abusers.
The woman had been recently diagnosed with cancer and had travelled to Rome despite her condition to ask for refugee status. This came after she had tried to obtain Italian citizenship. Her receipt of benefits, including a disability pension, had been stripped, and her nationality was reinstated as Albanian rather than ‘stateless’ as it was before.
The change in designation meant she would not have been able to have a home or the benefits she needed to live.
Her friends told Italian media she wanted to speak with President Sergio Mattarella or some Interior Ministry officials. But Sejdini had no luck and set fire to herself in front of the Interior Ministry on October 28.
After the incident, she survived with significant burns; she said, “I applied for public housing, but now I dream of it. The documents no longer match, and I cannot accept Albanian citizenship; I have nightmares from the moment they told me this. I would rather kill myself.”
The authorities then ordered her return to Pavia, but instead of returning, she committed suicide by throwing herself off a railway bridge on Saturday, November 6.
Almost thirty years after Sejdini was trafficked, Albania remains a leading source country for sex trafficking. Furthermore, those who survive and are sent home are at risk of being rejected by their family and community, falling into poverty, or trafficked. Others fear retribution or that criminal will come looking for them. Around 2% are forced back into sex work after they return.
Despite the EU considering Albania as a safe country, “very real risks” are presented by doing so, according to Petya Nestorova, the Executive Secretary of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA).
“It’s important to consider all of the risks before sending them back to Albania; risks like you mentioned [stigma, re-trafficking, family rejection, social exclusion, poverty, intimidation/harassment] are genuine risks. In France, women have been granted asylum after being trafficked because returning to Albania is seen as carrying risks… this should be used more,” she said during an interview with Exit News.