Born in Albania, Odeta 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 was born in a city in the south of Albania in a very problematic family environment. I am 16 years old. My father used to drink a lot, and he only worked sporadically. He still faces alcohol problems. He used to be violent when he was drunk and would physically abuse me, my mother, and my brother and sisters. Meanwhile my mother worked as a garbage collector, but all her salary was appropriated from my father in order to drink and gamble.
About six years ago, my mother decided to leave my father, and she went to Italy illegally. We stayed with our aunt and grandmother. They raised us. Three years after my mother left Albania, she married an Italian man and was able to obtain all the necessary documents. She sent money for us to my aunt in order to help a little bit in our living. During this period of time my grandmother died. After that, I went to live with my father again. He kept beating me regularly. I was expected to take care of my little brother and sisters; the youngest one was only four months old when my mother left. I have never been to school, although I wanted to.
One night a man came in to our home asking to take me away. He was armed and threatened my father who did not accept what he was asking for. Then my father called the police, and then the man left because he was afraid of the police. In the meantime, I met a guy and fell in love with him. I felt he was in love with me, but my family never accepted this fact, so they found me another man to marry. I had never met him before. My mother and my aunt decided on this. This marriage was not legal at all, because I was only fourteen; that’s what I learned later on. My father went illegally to Greece, and I went to live with my so-called husband and his brothers. This lasted only three weeks because he began to beat me regularly.
After this, a neighbor of mine promised to go and find a job in Italy for me. He also proposed to me and asked me to marry him. I accepted and ran away secretly from home, hiding with him in the same city where I was born. There was a Russian girl hiding in this house as well. I was not comfortable with this new situation but I had no other way, so I just stayed and waited for things to happen. One Albanian boy called brought us to Vlora and then illegally from Vlora to Italy by speedboat. We slept one night in a house that belonged to a friend of the boy and the very next day they took us to a city in Italy. We stayed there in another house where there was a woman who used to teach us how to work in the streets. At the beginning I refused to do this type of work, but I was beaten all day and night. They threatened to kill me as well. So I was obliged to work as a prostitute.
I worked in the streets for about three weeks. I was forced to give all the money I earned to the Albanian boy. After three weeks the police caught me, and I denounced him. The police guys took me to a center for minors. I stayed there for about a year and a half. During this time, I tried to contact my mother because I wanted to live with her and my other brothers and sisters. I found out that my mother took them from Albania to Italy. I went to see where and how she was living. I found out in the meantime that she was living with a man, a guy younger than she is, and working as a prostitute herself.
I then told all my doubts and fears to the social workers in the center where I was sheltered and decided not to live with her. I miss her and love her so much, but I cannot accept the way she earns the money. Then I contacted my aunt in Albania and told her that I might want to come back to my country of origin and live with her. I returned from Italy and am trying to start a new life here.
Narrative as told to the International Organization for Migration, with the Association of Albanian Girls and Women, 2005, in Tirena, Albania.