From: Exit Staff
Albania Does Not Meet Anti-Human Trafficking Standards, But Improvements Noted

Albania does not meet the minimum standards required to eliminate human trafficking, but it is making significant efforts to do so, according to the United States State Department’s latest report.

Published each year, the report takes a close look at countries’ efforts to combat human trafficking and categorises them into tiers, with the first being the most prepared.

Ranked as a Tier 2 Country alongside most of its regional neighbours in the Balkans and Southern Europe, the report noted that there had been increasing efforts to improve the situation since the last reporting period.

“These efforts included investigating more cases and prosecuting and convicting significantly more traffickers. The government identified more victims and increased resources to NGO-run shelters,” the report states.

It also notes that the authorities adopted the 2021-2023 National Action Plan (NAP) and allocated resources, however, they still fell short in a number of key areas.

For example, official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a concern with zero prosecutions or convictions of officials despite “serious allegations and the government dismissing a police officer from his position.”

It also found that the screening of vulnerable populations such as undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, Romani and Balkan Egyptian communities, and children was underfunded, as were mobile victim identification units.

Also, “The government lacked resources for long-term care, employment, and other reintegration efforts for survivors, and the government-run hotline continued to not function.”

In 2021, the police investigated 61 cases of trafficking with 27 suspects (15 for adult trafficking and 12 for child trafficking) compared to 31 cases with 32 suspects in 2020. There were zero investigations for knowingly soliciting a sex trafficking victim to perform a commercial sex act, compared to four the previous year.

Some 60 cases were prosecuted with 19 defendants, an increase of two cases from the previous year. SPAK prosecuted two new cases and continued two from previous years.  A total of 11 traffickers were convicted, a significant increase to zero in 2020 for child trafficking.

Judges sentenced five traffickers to imprisonment between eight years and 25 years and two traffickers to imprisonment between two years and eight years; four traffickers received probation.

Lenient sentences, such as probation, undercut efforts to hold traffickers accountable, weakened deterrence, created potential security and safety concerns for victims, and were not equal to the seriousness of the crime, the report noted.

Recommendations for the government include the need to “vigorously” investigate and convict traffickers, including public officials, sentence those guilty to terms consistent with penalties and train the judiciary to comprehend the severity of these cases when sentencing.

They should also improve the sustainability of mobile trafficking identification units and increase efforts to screen vulnerable populations, and train police, labour inspectors and other front-line officials.

Funding should also be created along with funding mechanisms that allocate adequate financial and other resources to the matter in a consistent and regular basis, including to NGO-run shelters.

Furthermore, reintegration services should be expanded, including access to mental health support and education. A victim-centred approach should be adopted, and witness protection for victims should be implemented.