Mission in Albania
A Report from the IOM & DFID Workshop on Trafficking of Women in Albania
Today an estimated 2 million women are trafficked throughout the world each year and many are women who are trafficked for sexual exploitation. According to some sources, there are currently between 200,000 and 500,000 women are illegally working as prostitutes within the European Union, and the majority of those sex workers are migrant women. Trafficking in women has evolved as one of the most troubling problems in contemporary global migration.
The unabated demand for migration, coupled with stricter migration controls and entry requirements, have provided criminals with a potential for huge profit with minimum risks. The number of persons attempting or desiring to enter other countries clandestinely has given rise to a market for services such as the provision of fraudulent travel documents, transportation, guided border crossing, accommodation and job brokering. Given its potential for high profit and the relatively low risks involved, trafficking has now become a highly organized, major global business. The trafficking industry has become a multi billion-dollar industry today. Criminal organizations operating across the globe have found that trafficking of people, especially women, is even more lucrative and certainly less risky than drug trafficking, and they often succeed in combining the two. As trafficking routes diversify across the globe, nearly every country in the world is effected in either a sending, transiting or receiving mode.
II. TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN IN ALBANIA
Since opening up to the outside world in 1991, Albania has emerged as a major source of trafficked women. During the period between 1992 and 1998, thousands of Albanian women left their country and found themselves working as a prostitute in various Western European cities. While the exact number of trafficked Albanian women is unknown, an Albanian NGO, Women in Development Association, estimates that there are around 30,000 Albanian women currently working in Western European countries as prostitutes. Many were trafficked by Albanian men who were their boyfriends, family members or relatives. Victims of trafficking are generally women who are 16 to 22 years of age. Many are teenage girls as young as 14 years old. There are also cases of divorced women who accept working abroad to support their children. These women come from all over Albania. Some of them come from large cities such as Vlora, Berati, Tirana and Fieri. More recently, others come from small rural areas. Most women and girls are trafficked for street prostitution.
Criminal organizations dealing with trafficking of women in Albania are concentrated in Vlora, Berat, Fier, Shkodra and Tirana. They provide women with false travel documents and visas, and transport these women to Italy by speedboats. Trafficking routes used for women from Albania to Italy are often the same as used for drugs, weapons and contra-banned products. Speedboats run to the Italian coast, particularly on the Otranto Channel between Puglias southern coast, along the Calabrian coast southwards, and the coast of Abruzzo northwards. The coast route along the northeastern Adriatic coast is sometimes used, though the "northern" routes seem to be much harder for traffickers to use than the "southern" routes. A false or stolen EU passport, a tourist visa or a forged humanitarian visa is often used to enter the EU. Albania is also one of the major transit countries for women from central and eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Moldavia, Romania, Russia and Ukraine. Those women are brought into Albania mainly through Montenegro. Once women are brought inside the EU border, some of them are transported to other Western European countries such as Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The most common recruitment method used is a false promise of marriage or job abroad. In a few cases, actual kidnappings take place. The Interpol in Albania has dealt with 103 such kidnapping cases between 1993 and 1998, and only 44 of those women have been traced. Criminals who are involved in trafficking are often young Albanian men who are attracted by the possibility of earning easy money even at the expense of girls and women who are their family siblings, relatives, girl friends, friends, school mates or neighbors in their home town or village.
A false promise of a job abroad is always accompanied with promises to arrange everything from travel documents and visas, safe and easy traveling, a safe place to live. Women are offered a job as a baby sitter, cleaner, waitress, or caretaker for old people, which normally do not require a high level of education or language skills. A false promise of marriage is another common way to deceive women into trafficking. After a false marriage, a trafficker takes his "wife" to abroad for a honeymoon or to settle down. He then immedatelly sells his "wife" to other pimps or forces her to work as a prostitute on the street. Marriage is used as a way to keep the woman under his control.
In addition, trafficked women are faced with other risks and dangers. Violence is always present in trafficking. From threats, curtailment of freedom, beatings, rape, torture and to even murder, traffickers and their accomplices will stop at nothing to extract the maximum profit from women. Illicit drugs are often used as another means of controlling girls and women. Many prostitution clients require unprotected sex. Ample proof accumulated over the years shows that the sex industry is the environment with the highest AIDS contagion risks. Just as current are other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) which can seriously damage health of women or permanently disable them. Working in violent and promiscuous environments, living under constant fear of deportation, arrest beating and even murder by criminal groups often leads to severe psychological trauma.
There are indications that some corrupt law enforcement and other government officials are involved in trafficking and collaborating with traffickers. Traffickers often reward police and customs for letting them pass the border illegally and freely with women and providing protection for the criminals. Coupled with the wide spread corruption, a weak legal system, a lack of enforcement, a limited capacity and resources make it hard for the Albanian government to take concrete actions against trafficking in women.
III. WORKSHOP SUMMARY
As a first step in addressing the phenomenon, IOM, together with the British Department for International Development (DFID) organized a two-day workshop on trafficking in Tirana, Albania. The workshop was organized primarily for local and international NGOs working in Albania. However, it was also attended by representatives and experts from the Albanian Government, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Research Center on Violence, Abuse and Gender Relations of Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom.
The workshop was designed to achieve the following objectives:
ßDeepen the understanding of the issue through a dialogue
ßPromote a common approach
ßIncrease the capacity of local NGOs
ßBuild a reliable and sustainable network and referral system
ßDevelop a Plan of Action
In order to identify concrete intervention activities in support of victims of trafficking, five distinct areas were discussed: 1) social and psychological counseling; 2) shelter; 3) micro-enterprise and vocational training; 4) legal assistance and reform; 5) public and reproductive health. Prior to the workshop, all the NGOs invited were requested to state their main areas of expertise and activity. The information was used to form working groups during the workshop. The two-day workshop resulted in recommendations regarding concrete intervention projects to counter the problem of trafficking in each of the above mentioned intervention areas. Depending on local political, administrative and social conditions in a given country, some recommendations from the workshop would be best implemented regionally, while others might be better implemented nationally.
The workshop was an opportunity to start discussing what and how best various institutions, individually and/or jointly, could assist victims of trafficking. Reintegration of trafficked women is more than just a geographic movement of a woman back home from wherever they were located. Victims of trafficking were forced, deceived or bonded to work and to live in violent and abusive conditions, leaving them with permanent scars both physically and mentally. Sheltering, counseling, training and reintegrating these victims is a time-consuming and difficult undertaking. Several NGOs are currently working on a case-by-case basis to provide support for those women. However, considering the extent and invisibility of the trafficking problem, the limited resources, the time-consuming efforts that are necessary for individual reintegration, there is very limited capacity in Albania at this point to assist those women. Most of victims of trafficking are being returned without any assistance. In some cases, given the lack of assistance capacity, women are simply being returned to their family members who trafficked them or to the very same situation from which they were trafficked. This leads to simply re-trafficking of these women.
Reintegration of victims of trafficking is to a large extent dependent on the way the victims family and the larger social environment are able to support and cope with victims of trafficking. Yet there is a considerable gender inequality between women and men as well as discrimination against women in Albanian society, which often blames abused women themselves rather than seeing them as victims. Stigmatization can become such a dominant force of condemnation that some trafficked women are pushed back into their old situation. Moreover, stigmatization can also become an issue for those who are trying to assist those victims of trafficking.
Some participants at the workshop correctly pointed out that Albanian NGOs were underrepresented in working groups except in the working group on psycho-social counseling. Albanian participation was weakest in the working groups on shelter and micro-enterprise & vocational training. This, in turn, reveals the fact that there are currently almost no shelter and training assistance and support for victims of trafficking in Albania. It is also realized that there is effectively no assistance and support available for victims of trafficking with sever trauma or psychiatric problems. Shelter assistance for victims of trafficking remains the most difficult and controversial issue due to security risks and social stigma associated with it.
Those institutions that accepted the invitation and participated in the workshop expressed their desire and willingness to work together as a group. This was, in part, a realization from the workshop that only working together with other partners can effectively increase the capacity of local NGOs.
IV. RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE WORKSHOP
1. Working Group on Social and Psychological Counseling
1) Need to develop a national strategy on psycho-social support and counseling for victims of trafficking.
2) Psycho-social assistance needs to focus on families, young people, and victims of trafficking and prostitution.
3) Improve information sharing among NGOs by building up a network of psycho-social support.
4) Create a collaboration mechanism between local NGOs, International NGOs and the government to implement the national strategy.
5) Counseling for victims of trafficking must be aimed at preparing them for their eventual re-adaptation to family and/or society.
6) Counselors need to be aware of the kind and degree of choice women had before they were trafficked.
7) Provide more general training as well as specialized training for the NGO staffs who are providing psycho-social support to victims of trafficking.
8) Long-term courses on counseling and social work should be developed at the tertiary level after successful completion of which counselors would be rewarded with a certificate or diploma.
9) Develop school curricula for the middle and high schools for prevention.
10) Increase public awareness and understanding of the need of psycho-social support for victims of trafficking and their families.
11) Incorporate the psycho-social aspect in mass public awareness campaigns.
12) Develop a regional psycho-social program in support of victims of trafficking in Albania, Greece, Italy and Macedonia.
13) Write a project proposal for building of a pilot psycho-social counseling center to be shared and used jointly by NGOs.
2. Working Group on Shelter
1) In many cases reintegration into the family is considered to be most desirable. There are, however, many reasons why a victim of trafficking may not want to be re-united with her family or to return to her home city or village.
2) The Albanian government needs to recognize the urgent need to increase shelter capacity in Albania for victims of trafficking and other forms of violence against women.
3) Build up a network among NGOs, government and international organizations to create a referral system.
4) Compile and analyze all the existing service of NGOs currently available for the victims of trafficking in Albania, and provide governmental and other institutions with a list of all available services.
5) Strengthen the cooperation between religious and non-religious institutions.
6) Build a multi-purpose women and youth center with a small shelter capacity to provide a wide range of assistance and services such as counseling and training instead of building a specialized "shelter" for victims of trafficking.
7) Rehabilitate old and unused community centers, schools and hospitals (with possible assistance from IOM) to be used as such multi-purpose women and youth centers.
8) Security issues must be carefully assessed and addressed.
9) IOM is to serve as the information sharing and service referral system for the network among local NGOs, international NGOs, the government and other international organizations assisting victims of trafficking.
3. Working Group on Micro-Enterprise and Vocational Training
1) Set up a task force to study the issue further.
2) Compile and analyze existing vocational training and micro-enterprise opportunities for vulnerable women.
3) A micro-enterprise project needs to be translated into an economically successful and sustainable livelihood, and a vocational training project needs to include job referral or placement assistance.
4) Job referral to foreign enterprises must mot result in another type of exploitation for those women.
5) Individual capacities, personalities and aspirations as well as the marketability of certain skills or initiatives of each woman have to be carefully assessed and taken into account.
6) Assess locally available economic resources that can be used in support of reintegrating victims of trafficking.
7) Vocational training can be organized on two directions: women could be trained to become social workers or mediators who would assist other victims of trafficking and vulnerable members of society; or they could be integrated into existing women micro-enterprises.
4. Working Group on Legal Assistance and Reform
1) Interpol & Europol should make more resources on combating trafficking and prostitution available. The lack of police intelligence must be addressed and campaigned.
2) The use of prostitution should be criminalized. (The issue of sentence was left aside due to lack of expertise.)
3) Trafficking in women has to be made a separate offence apart from prostitution based on the model of Sweden.
4) Training on international instruments of all judicial actors has to be improved.
5) Albanian translations of the international Conventions should be made available.
6) Gender and trafficking issues need to be part of the curriculum for the school of magistrates and law schools.
7) Due to restrictive migration policies, even the refugee status seems difficult to obtain nowadays. Countries should be encouraged to provide trafficked women refugee status.
8) In the current appropriate context, relevant bodies should propose proposals and reforms.
Redraft of article 113, definition of `prostitution so that women prostitute should not be criminalized but the customers (i.e. Offence of sexual exploitation). Furthermore, traffickers should be legally punished. Obtaining casual sex for payment is a crime punishable by law.
"Profiting by prostitution" (Criminal Code Article 114): Procuring for the purposes of prostitution.
Article 114/a, Exploitation of prostitution with aggravated circumstances
Point 2, when exploitation is assessed for more than one person
Point 3, marriage should be added
Point 5, made a separate section of the law (114/b)
9) Provide legal provisions for witnesses in co-operation with welfare agencies and relevant Ministries.
10) Build up a network of centers of services in order to provide assistance and legal representation for women subject to trafficking and/or prostitution.
11) A need for each EU government to review their respective national legislation and criminal codes to ensure that trafficked women are recognized and treated as victims rather than criminals.
12) Establish a provision within the EU code of conduct that prohibits the use of prostitutes by all personnel working for inter-governmental organization, national governments, militaries, NGOs, or any other agencies funded by the EU.
13) A need to organize a regional standing conference on trafficking of women to address and coordinate information and activities among national governments (particularly their judiciary and law enforcement branches), inter-governmental organizations and NGOs from sending, transit, and receiving countries in Europe.
5. Working Group on Public and Reproductive Health
1) A leaflet and training manual will be created and distributed to all NGOs working in reproductive health, youth or related issues that describes briefly the risks and impacts of trafficking. These NGOs will be urged to include such information in all relevant materials, training, reports, etc as efforts to fully integrate trafficking into the reproductive health and womens health networks. Efforts at reaching young men as well as young women was stressed.
2) A working website will be created where NGOs can post their brochures, fliers, etc that can be downloaded by others (including NGOs in Italy) as useable resources. It also provides a vehicle for partners from different sectors (NGOs, governments, police force, etc) to exchange information and dialogue through list-serves and on-line discussions.
3) A neutral body that provides "case management" is needed so that traumatized women are not shuffled from program to program. The group proposed the Committee of Women and Family in the Ministry of Social Affairs to oversee this program.
4) A technical assistance program would train providers on how to deal with various needs of trafficked women, which are unique for reproductive health, OB/GYN and psychosocial services.
5) A school-based curriculum on gender equality and sensitivity training was proposed. Issues of trafficking would be presented in an age-appropriate manner.
6) Mass media campaign that highlights women in a positive light was proposed. Well-respected women, such as legendary singer SIMAKU, could be a spokesperson that speaks to young women about being ambitious and striving for great things in their lives.
7) There should be efforts made to ensure that NGOs work together on this issue and not duplicate their resources by each making their own brochures, their own campaigns, etc. It should be a coordinated effort moderated by a neutral body. The group should come up with a name such as "the Inter Agency Working Group for Trafficking in Albania" so that programs and resources for the group get credited to all agencies, not just a select few.
8) The emphasis must be on integration into the current system of delivery instead of creating new systems.