Albania (Tier 2)
Albania is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including the forced begging of children. Albanian victims are subjected to conditions of forced labor and sex trafficking within Albania and Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Western Europe. Approximately half of the victims referred for care within the country in 2010 were Albanian women and girls subjected to sex trafficking in hotels and private residences in Tirana, Durres, and Vlora. Children were primarily exploited for forced begging and other forms of forced labor; some girls were subjected to prostitution or forced labor after arranged marriage. There is evidence that Albanian men have been subjected to forced labor in the agricultural sector of Greece and other neighboring countries. NGOs continue to report re-trafficking of Albanian victims as a problem.
The Government of Albania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government took several concrete steps to improve its overall anti-trafficking strategy. Specifically, the government earmarked funds for NGOs and provided economic reintegration assistance directly to victims. The government also appointed a victim-witness coordinator and two specialized anti-trafficking prosecutors to improve the litigation of trafficking cases and treatment of victims who agree to serve as state witnesses. These efforts portend well for future results. During the reporting period, however, one government ministry attempted to unilaterally revoke the shelter licenses of three specialized anti-trafficking NGOs, but rescinded this order after repeated interventions by the international community. NGOs continued to report gaps in the implementation of the government's National Referral Mechanism (NRM). Further, widespread corruption, particularly within the judiciary, continued to hamper overall anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim protection efforts.
Recommendations for Albania: Continue to improve implementation of the NRM and ensure the full participation of all signatories; aggressively prosecute law enforcement officials who are complicit in human trafficking; vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking offenders; empower the new victim-witness coordinator and specialized prosecutors to help create a more case-based, multidisciplinary response to trafficking; improve the functioning of regional anti-trafficking committees to improve the identification of and response to domestic trafficking cases; follow through on promised funding to NGOs providing critical care and reintegration assistance to victims; ensure proactive identification at border points and among persons exploited within Albania's sex trade and labor sectors while intensifying partnerships with NGOs to increase detection and referral of all trafficking victims; and improve identification and specialized services for child trafficking victims.
The Government of Albania increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2010. Albania criminally prohibits sex and labor trafficking through Articles 110(a), 128(b), and 114(b) of its Criminal Code, which prescribe penalties of five to 15 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and exceed those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2010, the State Police reported investigating 51 suspected trafficking offenders in 37 cases, all of whom were referred to court for prosecution. The Serious Crimes Prosecution division reported investigating 29 suspects and the Serious Crimes Court prosecuted 27 suspected trafficking offenders, resulting in 11 convictions in 2010, compared with the prosecution of 31 and conviction of 11 offenders in 2009. Penalties ranged from fines to seven to 15 years' imprisonment. The government improved its response to labor trafficking by initiating a criminal investigation into one labor trafficking case in 2010. The government dedicated 40 anti-trafficking officers exclusively to human trafficking investigations in 2010; high staff turnover, particularly among female officers, continued to be a problem. The government, in partnership with NGOs, continued its pre-service and in-service anti-trafficking training, including interview techniques, for police recruits and personnel during 2010. The government also continued its anti-trafficking training for judges, prosecutors, and judicial police officers, training 113 judicial officials in 2010.
Pervasive corruption in all levels and sectors of Albanian society continued to seriously affect the government's ability to address its human trafficking problem. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of trafficking-related complicity in 2010.
The Government of Albania improved its efforts to identify and protect victims of trafficking victims in 2010. NGOs and the government's shelter assisted 97 trafficking victims via the National Referral Mechanism in 2010, compared with 94 victims in 2009. Fourteen of the victims were children. Law enforcement identified 51 out of the 97 victims referred to care providers; the government reported that the same number of victims cooperated with law enforcement on their cases. The Albanian government's efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims were noteworthy in 2010; officials identified a significant number of victims relative to the Balkan region, including one labor trafficking victim. While the government officially acknowledged its internal trafficking problem, local level responders' lack of understanding and response likely resulted in a lack of proactive identification and referral of these victims. The NRM, generally recognized by Albanian stakeholders and international observers as an effective framework, continued to suffer from inadequate implementation by its signatories. During the reporting period, one government ministry bypassed the NRM completely and attempted to unilaterally revoke the licenses of three of the NGO signatories providing shelter and assistance to trafficking victims; the Ministry rescinded this order after repeated interventions by the international community. These threatened closures damaged the trust and partnership between the government and civil society on trafficking victim protection issues. During the reporting period, the government finalized a law that provides reintegration assistance to victims, and provided stipends of $30 per month to each victim after they left a shelter. The government, however, has yet to formally disburse promised funding to NGOs providing critical care and assistance to victims in shelters. The government continued to fund and operate a reception center that housed both victims of trafficking and irregular foreign migrants identified within Albanian territory; victims' freedom of movement is often restricted in this center. Furthermore, it lacks the capacity to provide comprehensive reintegration assistance to victims. The government did not penalize victims for unlawful acts committed in connection with their being trafficked and, per provision of its law, it offered legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, though no victims were granted such legal alternatives during the reporting period.
The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders. Victims however often refused to testify out of fear of retribution from traffickers. There is often a need for protection after a trial commences. In some cases, the police offered no protections to trafficking victims when testifying against their traffickers, forcing victims to rely exclusively on NGOs for protection. The General Prosecutor's office did not request witness protection for any victims of trafficking in 2010. To help improve protection, the Prosecutor General named a victim witness advocate to help serve the needs of the victims and two specialized prosecutors for trafficking cases.
In February 2011, the government approved a new 2011-2013 national anti-trafficking strategy with input from civil society, and continued to organize information and education campaigns to prevent trafficking. The government continued to monitor its anti-trafficking efforts via its National Coordinator's office, which published an annual report on trafficking in October 2010, reflecting modest transparency in its anti-trafficking policies and activities. Regional anti-trafficking coordination groups were not fully functional, did not always include civil society, and lacked needed leadership and assistance. Lack of political will and misunderstandings about trafficking in some government agencies continued to be a significant barrier to the establishment of an institutionalized response to trafficking in Albania. The government continued to fund the national toll-free, 24-hour hotline for victims and potential victims of trafficking.