There are an estimated 20,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Albania (GSI 2018). An estimated 10% of girls in Albania are married before their eighteenth birthday, with child marriage most common among the Roma ethnic group and in poor, isolated and rural areas. Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and while country has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the UN Sustainable development goals, no progress has been reported thus far. Human traffickers also exploit domestic and foreign victims in Albania, and traffickers exploit victims from Albania abroad. Traffickers exploit Albanian women and children in sex trafficking and forced labor within the country, especially during tourist season. Traffickers use false promises such as marriage or employment offers to force victims into sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit Albanian victims in sex trafficking in countries across Europe, particularly Kosovo, Greece, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, North Macedonia, Norway, the Netherlands, and the UK. Albanian migrants who seek employment in Western Europe face forced labor and forced criminality, particularly in the UK.
S was born in Albania to a poor family who forced her to marry someone living in Greece at the age of 14. S moved to Greece with her husband illegally, subjected to emotional and physical abuse daily. After a year, S escaped her marriage and was deported back to Albania, however after giving birth to her daughter, Sara, S’s father forced her into another marriage with a 60-year-old man. S escaped this second forced marriage with the help of her father’s friend she had known since she was ten years old. This man, however, attempted to traffik S into prostitution in Italy. She was caught by police on a boat and referred to a safe place back in Albania.
My name is S., and I am seventeen years old. I was born in L., a city in the south of Albania. Four sisters, two brothers, my mother, and my father compose my family. My parents do not work; they used to live by begging in the streets or by the money that one of my sisters as well as one of my brothers sends to them. They are working as illegal immigrants in Greece, I think. We used to change our residence frequently; we never had a real house. We used to live in just one room with the toilet outside.
When I was 14 years old, my family (my father I mean, because he was the one who decided for the family) arranged for me to marry someone who was living in Greece. I married him even though I had just seen him a few times when he came to Albania. We got married, and we went to live in Greece illegally. Even my marriage was not a formal one; it was an agreement between my father and him.
I stayed with him for one year. During this time he was emotionally abusive of me and physically violent towards me. He used to spend money by going to discos, and it seemed to me that he didn’t do any work at all. I did not know where he used to find the money. He had regular documents; I didn’t.
I worked for one month in a bar as a cleaner. My husband used to go to this bar, and he used to steal things there, so after one month my employer fired me. My husband threatened me by saying that he was going to put me to work on the streets as a prostitute. At this point I decided to denounce him to the police. I denounced him for his abusive treatment of me, the physical violence even while I was pregnant, and for all the rest.
The Greek police deported me to Albania through the crossing point of Kapshtica. I was left on the border of Albania near a village. I didn’t know anybody there, and I did not know any place to go. I was pregnant and scared. A family there hosted me for one night. The next day I went to L., the city of my birth, by mini-bus. I couldn’t find my parents because they had changed their home again. I contacted my sister who lives with her family in a village of L. My sister paid the driver of the minibus.
When I arrived in Albania, I was five months pregnant. I stayed with my family until the birth of my child. Even my parents were against it. They wanted me to have an abortion because they said they didn’t have money to raise my baby. I gave birth to a baby girl. I called her Sara.
Meanwhile my family arranged for me another marriage with an old Italian man, who was living in D., a village near the city of L. He was sixty years old. He wouldn’t allow me to leave the house, and he abused me sexually. I was distressed.
I decided to leave him when I met a guy from the same village, someone I had known since I was ten years old. This guy was a friend of my father and used to serve as a translator between me and my Italian husband at the beginning. He offered to help me go to Italy where I could meet my other sisters. Though he was married, he told me he would abandon his wife and children to stay with me and my daughter. He took me to live in hotels for five months. He told me he loved me, and I believed him. He promised to find me a good job in Italy, and I believed him.
Later on, I found out that he wanted me to be a prostitute when I met some other girls who were staying at the last hotel where I stayed in Vlora. They were both Albanian and foreign girls. He began to beat me and told me that I must abandon my daughter. I did not want to do that, but he threatened to kill my daughter and me. I was all alone and scared. Then he promised me that if I left her somewhere, it would be better because she could never survive the trip through the sea by speedboat to Italy. He promised we could take the baby back after some months. I did what he told me. I could not do any other way.
He cheated me and forced me to abandon my daughter. One night we woke up at 3:00 in the morning and went by speedboat. Fortunately the police caught us, and they referred me to a safe place here in Albania.
Narrative courtesy of the Association for Albanian Girls and Women
The organisation’s True Stories of trafficking survivors can be found here