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2005 (Narrative date)

Born in Albania, Sanije was “married” to a stranger in Greece by her father, then later to another man, both of whom abused her. 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 17 years old. I was born in 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 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. 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. He was 60 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 three in the morning and went by speedboat. Fortunately the police caught us, and they referred me to a safe place here in Albania.

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