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2005 (Narrative date)

Born in Albania, Flutura was trafficked into Italy, where trafficking victims also arrive from Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, China, and South America. One NGO estimates that 48 percent of the prostitutes in Italy are from Eastern Europe. Many women are trafficked into richer Western European countries from the poorer Eastern countries, including Albania. The fall of communism in 1991 led to a rise in organized crime in Albania: in 2001 it was estimated 100,000 Albanian women and girls had been trafficked to Western European and other Balkan countries in the preceding ten years. More than 65 percent of Albanian sex-trafficking victims are minors at the time they are trafficked, and at least 50 percent of victims leave home under the false impression that they will be married or engaged to an Albanian or foreigner and live abroad. Another ten percent are kidnapped or forced into prostitution. The women and girls receive little or no pay for their work, and are commonly tortured if they do not comply.

I am 20 years old. I was born in a northern city of Albania. I have three sisters and two brothers as well as my father and my mother. We have always been living under a patriarchal mentality where the man of the family has the right to judge and decide for everything and everybody. We had good living conditions, though, so I managed to finish high school with an average of marks 8.7. My desire was to proceed to the university, and I was interested in pursuing law. During the summer after I finished high school I started to work in a fast food restaurant in order to help my family, as we moved to the capital city for a better life. In the meantime I met a boy whom I used to like a lot, but my father did not allow me to see him, so I respected his wishes, and I broke with the guy.

After one month or so a neighbor next to my house told my father that a cousin of hers was interested in marrying me. She told my parents he was rich and had serious intentions towards me. I could not stand this woman; indeed, she seemed to me a very cheating person. So I told my father I was not going to say yes to her and her cousin. I had other plans for my life than getting married. We quarreled for some days, then it seemed everything was settled down. One day as I was coming back home as usual, a car stopped at my feet and two men kidnapped me by force. They used violence; it was late afternoon and for my bad luck nobody was walking by. They kept my eyes closed and I found myself in a city of near the seaside.

We stayed there for one week. When I opened my eyes I could easily tell who the persons were. One of them was the guy that was supposed to marry me. I could not believe my eyes at first, and then I understood their real intentions. In the meantime they abused me physically, sexually and psychologically as well. Then we moved to the city of Vlora. Once there we stayed one night only, and we left for Italy by speedboat. As soon as we arrived there we met some other girls that were there for the same reasons.

We all had to work as prostitutes in the streets. For sure I refused to work, but you would never believe what kind of persons they are and what methods they use to keep you feeling as a prisoner, as a victim. One time when I could hardly withstand the torture, they threatened to kill my family and to kidnap my little sisters who were only children at that time, so I accepted the work.

They took all the money I used to earn. I used to work every night in the streets and used to earn enough money for them, or this is what I believed. But they were never satisfied and no deal to make with them was ever possible. So I started looking for ways to escape by myself. Once I tried to get hidden in the house of a priest, as he offered to help me. There were some other girls there as well. He called the police in order to help us. We stayed at the police station one night and they deported us to Albania. But very soon the pimp found out were I was and for a second time we went illegally to Italy in the where I worked for about nine months.

During this time I met with a guy, who used to be my regular client. He used to behave well to me; he respected me and showed compassion for my story and experience. So by passing the time we became good friends, and then we fell in love with other. He proposed that I leave with him, and I reflected quite well and escaped with him. I did not denounce anybody because I was still very afraid and unsafe. I lived with him for one year and a half. I met his parents and his sister.

We did not tell them anything about my story. I was afraid they would prejudge me even it was never my fault. I tried to contact my family in order to say to them I was living a normal life, but only my mother and one of my sisters would accept to talk to me. I had not spoken to my father and brothers for two years.

We decided with the guy I met about the possibility of getting married one day, sooner or later, but I was still an illegal immigrant, without regular papers. So I decided to come back to my country, I went to the police and told them about my situation. They deported me to Albania. I went to live with the nuns for some time and then in a safe place in Albania. There they helped me to contact my family, to set up the relationships with them. This was a hard process at the beginning, but after time, things settled down.

Now after some months I get along well with them although it’s still not so easy. In the meantime I contacted the guy to tell him I was fine. He promised to come and marry me here in my country in order to have the possibility of preparing the documents to go back with him to Italy. Now I am trying to start a new life with him as well as with my family.

Narrative as told to the International Organization for Migration, with the Association of Albanian Girls and Women, 2005, in Tirena, Albania.