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.
V.P. travelled to Greece for work when she was 16 years old where she was introduced to a man who promised to marry her. Instead he forced her into prostitution, forcing her to work up to 12hrs and beating her daily. After 2 years V.P. was able to escape and came back to Albania. However, unable to find work she left Albania for Italy where she was exploited as a prostitute for a second time.
My story started because of the deep poverty in my house. We were living on my mother’s pension payment, since my father was unemployed. When I was 16 I had to go to Athens and work there for my living. There I was introduced to a guy from Fier, who first promised to marry me, but very soon cheated me and made me a prostitute.
I was unlucky, living with a cruel person who treated me as a slave. I stayed with him for more than two years. During that time I was working 10-12 hours a day and he got all my profits. The first thing I experienced in the morning was beating and torture by him. He would hit me with his belt and tie me up with rope for 24 hours at a time without anything to eat. I hate him and sometimes think that his bad life made him criminal.
I wanted to escape but had no other place to go. Once I did escape and spent the night at the train station on a bench. As I was tired and exhausted I fell asleep, but I got up immediately because it was so cold. Where could I go? The roads of Athens are the property of my trafficker or his friends. How can a person escape from them? When my trafficker found me, he thought that I had been working and asked me for the money. I told him I didn’t work that night because I was sick, and he didn’t wait until I even finished my sentence; he caught my hair and hit me on the sidewalk. He beat me so much that night that I couldn’t move from the bed for 15 days. So it is hard to get away from traffickers.
Finally, after two years, I escaped and came back to my city in Albania to get a job, but it didn’t work well. I left Albania again, this time by a speedboat to go to Italy. There I met a guy from Vlora, who even though he exploited me as a prostitute, treated me better by giving to me half my profits.
If I had a good job I would never begin the profession of a prostitute. I would even be a street cleaner, but there were no other jobs, especially for a young Albanian girl like me. You may ask, how is this thing possible in Italy and Greece? I couldn’t get any other jobs. What do you think, that once you get to Italy or Greece, they present you a long list of jobs and then ask you which one you like the best? I am telling you: there is only one job there for young girls, the most difficult one, the most humiliating thing for a girl. I have always faced two paths: to sell my youth or to turn back to Albania. But I thought, where can I go in Albania and what will I do there? My family was so poor that we were never full and satisfied.
You might think it is embarrassing to be a prostitute, but to me it is embarrassing to live on somebody’s shoulders and that somebody is my paralyzed mother, who gets only 3000 lek a month. My situation and the situation of many other Albanian girls like me should make the Albanian government think and create jobs in order to employ Albanian young people in Albania. Why did they make us sell our honor abroad? And they say that Albania is going to Europe . . . but I saw Europe. We Albanians are going to the gap of poverty. If there was an agreement between the Albanian government and other foreign governments on immigration issues, we Albanian girls wouldn’t have become prostitutes. We sell our honor to make money, because we cannot live on 2000 - 3000 lek a month. I am feeling that this profession is making me sick.
Every Albanian girl has her own mind. I don’t want to make statements, but I want to tell you that this profession of the prostitute is the dirtiest of every other profession, and every girl understands what I mean. I would never wish my fortune on anybody else.
Narrative courtesy of the Association for Albanian Girls and Women
The organisation’s True Stories of trafficking survivors can be found here