The Albanian government has approved an anti-trafficking action plan as a part of a new strategy to target organised crime, according to Interior Minister Bledi Cuci on Tuesday (10 November).
Approved by the Council of Ministers, the new plan will involve the actions of multiple state institutions in fighting the phenomenon. Albania is a source, transit, and destination country for victims of human trafficking. These include people trafficked for sexual exploitation, drug cultivation and trafficking, and other forms of forced labour.
“Today, we approved the anti-trafficking of persons action plan…the approach is multidimensional, starting from preventing the phenomenon to the rehabilitation of persons,” Cuci said.
As part of a four-year strategy, Cuci said it was prepared by Albanian institutions, with assistance from relevant partnerrs and stakeholders.
Albania has consistently struggled to deal with the issue of human trafficking, and less than five convictions have been made in the last few years.
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) found that prosecutions and convictions were infrequent, as were seizure of assets resulting from trafficking. It noted that prosecutors and judicial staff were not adequately trained. The situation was being made worse by the justice reform as it was further depleting stocks of competent judicial staff.
Albania remains a source, destination, and transit country for victims of human trafficking. In 2017, Albania topped a UK list as the number 1 source for victims of modern slavery. Then in 2019, Reuters discovered that the UK was sending home dozens of slaves to trafficking hotspots such as Albania, putting them at risk of re-trafficking.
In June of this year, the British Home Office published a report on the trafficking of Albanian women for sexual exploitation. It found that while official figures of those trafficked may have decreased, this does not mean that this is the reality. They noted it referred only to identified cases and that cases were not always recorded adequately.
GRETA also noted that there are significant risks in returning trafficking victims to Albania. These include inadequate mental health support, low shelter funding, social exclusion and the risk of being trafficked again.
Petya Nestorova, the Executive Secretary of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), told Exit:
“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 added that there is also a need for source countries such as Albania to communicate more with destination countries.
“They need to talk to each other more because returning women to places where they will be ostracised is not a way to combat human trafficking. They have a responsibility to talk about this,” she added.
Around 50% of trafficked women and girls that return to Albania are rejected by their families. At least 2% are at risk of being trafficked.
The problem with fighting human trafficking in Albania, as with other forms of crime, is not resources or a lack of legislation. It is a lack of enforcement of already existing provisions.