There are an estimated 145,000 people liing in conditions of modern slavery in Italy (GSI 2018). Italy is a destination, transit, and source country for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. Victims originate from Nigeria, Romania, Morocco, China, and other countries. Female victims are often subjected to sex trafficking in Italy after accepting promises of employment as dancers, singers, models, restaurant servers, or caregivers. Romanian and Albanian criminal groups force Eastern European women and girls into commercial sex.
E.R. was 15 when she was forced to marry a man she did not know over twice her age. After leaving her forced marriage, she was disowned by her family and forced into prostitution in Italy by a man she believed loved her. E.R. was subjected to rape and beatings daily before she was rescued by a friend and taken back to Albania. However, E.R. has been unable to leave prostitution in her attempts to look after her son.
My name is E.R. and I am from Elbasan. When I was 15, my parents married me, against my will, to a man aged 35, whom I did not love. So started my miseries.
Not too long afterwards, I abandoned him and returned to my family. But my parents did not accept me back because I had dishonored them by leaving my husband. I had no support and nowhere to go. I got acquainted with a boy who was 20 who said he loved me and promised to marry me. He convinced me to go to Italy for "a better life."
I thought my sufferings now were at an end, but I did not know the real hell that was expecting me. I was compelled to work on the street. I did so for nearly three years. My exploiter savagely battered me frequently, mainly when I did not bring home the required sum or when he faced drug trafficking problems. During that time I gave birth to a son.
Once he beat me so hard that I cannot remember, and I fell on the floor. A friend of mine passing by to meet me found me on the floor, covered in blood. She saved my life by taking me to the hospital. I gave evidence in Italy and returned to Albania with my son. Again, they did not accept me. They took in my son only, and I could not take care of him.
Being destitute on the street again, I was forced to prostitute in Tirana, in the hotels and motels. I slept wherever I could -- on the street, in the park. I decided my condition would be better in Italy. When I returned there, I worked on the street again and was caught by the police and taken back to Albania a second time.
I find calmness and support in the shelter, and I now contemplate my future. I do not want anything else except to go home, to see and take care of my son, to be the mother he missed for so long.
Narrative courtesy of the Association for Albanian Girls and Women
The organisation’s True Stories of trafficking survivors can be found here