There are an estimated 145,000 people living 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.
At the age of 16, I’s parents arranged for her to marry a man twice her age, however this man was ill and was hospitalised some months later. After a while, it was arranged for I to marry another man named G., who convinced her they would have a better life in Italy. Upon arrival in Italy, I. was told she would have to work to pay for rent and forced into prostitution. I. was able to escape when her mother had denunciated their marriage and G was forced to return her to Albania and her family.
I was born in 1985 in a village in southwest Albania. My biological parents had divorced several months before I was born. Being unable to raise me, my father took my sister who was four, and my mother took me to an orphanage where I stayed until I was four years old. After that, my mother married another man who had four other children and gave birth to another child, my second sister. This second marriage lasted only two years. Again my mother took the only child she had with her and went to live with another man who had no children of his own. This time she decided to take me out of the orphanage. We were four people living in a shack.
This husband of my mother did not have any affection for us; he was always quarreling with my mother, saying he could not stand me being around, and he suspected my mother of continuing to have contacts with my real father. He hit us children, and my mother did not work or provide anything for the family. I had three other siblings from this marriage: two brothers and one sister. My parents did not have money to buy books, so I was not able to attend school regularly. Besides, I was told to pasture the cow, so I was not left time to learn or do my homework. After the third grade, my stepfather started to build a house, and I helped him although I was a small child. The relatives of my mother did not help her because they disliked her for her divorces; we were out of money most of the time.
Once, with the help of my aunt, I met my real father, and at that time my stepfather got so angry that he treated me as if I had committed a crime. It was 7:30 in the evening, and I did not know where to go. I came to Tirana to tell my aunt, and she brought me back home.
When I turned 16 my mother and my father arranged for me to marry a man who was 33 years old and mentally ill. He took drugs every day. After some months he was hospitalized, and I turned back home feeling ashamed, crying all the time for my fate, and thinking that my parents did not love me.
Some months later a salesperson named A. came to buy the products of our garden. He came in to have coffee with my parents and asked for me when he saw me looking depressed.
He said that he had a nephew, named G., who was living in another city and whose wife had died during childbirth. He said that he could arrange for me to marry him. That same day he brought this so-called nephew for us to see him.
The next day my parents went to that city to see if G.’s family lived there, but they did not find anybody at that address. When A. came back again, my parents expressed that they felt A. was lying, but A. got a taxi and took my parents to that city and showed them a half-finished house, saying that this was G.’s house but that his mother was not there because she went to a hospital in Tirana to see her sister. There my parents met only one person, H., who said that he was G.’s father. My parents were convinced, and that afternoon when G. called me he said that his father did not like me, but that it was okay because G. had fallen in love with me and he would disobey his father.
The next day he took me to a family, introduced them as his relatives, and left me there. These people used to hide me when they had guests in their house. G. was telling me that since his father did not agree with our marriage, that we would live better in Italy. He made me a passport and arranged that another person take me to Italy by speedboat. G. took a plane because he said he had documents.
There in Italy G. paid 450 euros for a house and told me that I had to work to pay for the rent and also to help my parents. He told me he would find a job for me and soon brought home a girl to teach me. When I realized what kind of job he was talking about, I refused, saying to G. that when someone loves his wife, it would not be acceptable for him to allow her to do this kind of work. He promised me we would buy a house in Tirana and we would live together in Tirana. I accepted and started working with that girl giving all the profits to him. After a week or so I found a picture of G. and his wife and started quarreling with him.
G. got a telephone call from his father telling him that my mother had made a denunciation and that many persons were arrested, so he had to bring me back. G. gave me the ticket and told his brother to bring me back to Durres. A person was waiting for us who took me to G.’s relatives and introduced me as B’s wife. A good man who was their relative felt compassion for me and took me to the police station of my city.
Narrative courtesy of the Association for Albanian Girls and Women
The organisation’s True Stories of trafficking survivors can be found here