From: Alice Taylor
CoE: Albania’s Criminal Justice Response to Human Trafficking is Weakening

While Albania has made some progress in tackling human trafficking, there is still more to be done according to the Council of Europe’s third report on the implementation of the Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings published by GRETA.

Since the previous round of evaluation, some legislation has been amended to strengthen rights and the position of victims of crime. Despite this, Albania remains primarily a country of origin for victims of human trafficking and were women and girls who were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. GRETA found that it was also a destination country.

Furthermore, the number of victims of internal trafficking is on the rise, particularly in regard to children trafficked for sexual exploitation, begging or working on cannabis farms. Around half of those trafficked were children.

Traffickers increasingly use social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, to recruit victims through fake job offers, abusing their position of vulnerability. Traffickers are generally Albanian citizens, who often form intimate relationships with the victims, exploiting their emotional attachment, but sometimes also resort to physical and psychological violence. 

The report noted with concern that there was a low number of convictions for human trafficking offences and it urged the authorities to take more measures to ensure the proactive investigation of cases, even if a complaint has not been submitted. 

They suggested the use of special investigation techniques and financial investigations to gather evidence. Furthermore, authorities must ensure legal professionals are trained to deal with such cases. In particular, they must ensure trafficking offences are not re-qualified as other offences that carry lighter penalties.

While the law provides a mechanism for victims to claim compensation for damages as a civil claimant in criminal proceedings, there has only been one court decision of this type. There was also no functioning state compensation scheme available to victims of trafficking. GRETA recommended that the authorities “make efforts to facilitate and guarantee victims’ access to compensation, in particular by ensuring that the collection of evidence about the harm the victim has suffered is part of the criminal investigations and by making full use of the legislation on the freezing and forfeiture of assets to secure compensation for victims of human trafficking.”

GRETA was informed of cases where women who were potential victims of trafficking had been prosecuted and convicted of prostitution. It also found that the authorities needed to do more to improve the protection of victims and witnesses from retaliation and intimidation by traffickers.

More also needs to be done to help victims of trafficking be socially and economically reintegrated.