There are an estimated 20,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Albania (GSI 2018). An estimated 10% of girls in Albania are married before their eighteenth birthday, with child marriage most common among the Roma ethnic group and in poor, isolated and rural areas. Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and while country has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the UN Sustainable development goals, no progress has been reported thus far. Human traffickers also exploit domestic and foreign victims in Albania, and traffickers exploit victims from Albania abroad. Traffickers exploit Albanian women and children in sex trafficking and forced labor within the country, especially during tourist season. Traffickers use false promises such as marriage or employment offers to force victims into sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit Albanian victims in sex trafficking in countries across Europe, particularly Kosovo, Greece, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, North Macedonia, Norway, the Netherlands, and the UK. Albanian migrants who seek employment in Western Europe face forced labor and forced criminality, particularly in the UK.
When she was a young girl A’s mother left her father for another man. Too poor to look after her, A’s mother sent her to live with a neighbours’ family who, while treating her well at first, began to withhold food and exploit her. She stayed there for one year before returning to live with her mother who, after spending some time begging, had been forced in to prostitution by a man who had promised to help her get a better house. A’s mother’s boyfriend began sexually abusing her, and when a friend found out, he hit the boyfriend with his car. A began working as a prostitute at the age of 13, thinking she was helping her mother who was too ill to work. One day A met a man who took her to a convent in Italy who referred her to a shelter where she was helped build a better life.
I am 15 years old, and I became a sex worker when I was 13. I am writing my story for you.
When I was a little girl, I had a good family, but later on everything in my life changed because my mother fell in love with terrible man. After having a relationship with this man for some time, my mother decided to leave my father for him. When we were leaving, my mother fell from the mountain where we were passing because we were in such a hurry. Fortunately, my mother survived the fall and we were able to send her immediately to a hospital. One day the doctor said that she couldn't be treated adequately there, and she must go to Tirana for medical care. My mother told me that I should not tell my father that she was being sent to Tirana. We went to Tirana in an ambulance, and one day my grandmother came to the hospital. My mother told me to go and live at her house until she was better.
When my mother was released from the hospital, we had to leave my grandmother's house because my grandmother didn't accept my mother's boyfriend as her husband. We didn't have any house, so sometimes we lived in the houses of others, and sometimes we lived on the street. My mother and I were begging because we didn't have any income. We did this for several years.
Once we went to the house of a friend of my mother's, but she was poor, too, and we couldn't stay there permanently. One of the neighbors was economically better off and asked my mother to let me live with them and later on marry their son. My mother didn't think anything bad would happen and thought I would be safer there, so she let me live there. I was only 9 years old.
At the beginning, they treated me very well, but later on they began to mistreat me and not give me enough food to eat, etc. I was really in a very bad condition. They told me to tell my mother that her boyfriend raped me. I did as I was told, even though it wasn't the truth because I was afraid of them, so I hurt my mother. She had trusted her boyfriend, and she started crying and left me. I felt so bad to lie to my mother, but I felt I was forced to lie.
I stayed almost one year at that house, and the marriage promised from them was not realized because my mother saw their son one day kissing another girl. My mother then understood that I shouldn't stay anymore in that house, and she came and got me and took me to her house. Thanks to God she helped me leave from that hell.
My mother was living in a very bad house with her boyfriend. All the rain always came inside, but I felt very happy because I was with my mother. My mother was begging. One person whom my mother knew promised my mother a better house. He seemed like a good person, but he lied to my mother about better work, and he exploited her. My mother had to work in the streets as a sex worker for his interests.
But something else even worse happened during that time. My mother's boyfriend raped me during the time when my mother wasn't in the house. He told me not to tell my mother what happened, and I didn't dare to tell my mother because I was so ashamed. I just couldn't find the ability to tell her.
Later on we left from that place, and went to stay in S. at the house of another friend of my mother's. His name was C. We stayed there for some days and then left together with my mother's friend to come to D. to his house. S.'s nephew fell in love with me. He was 21 years old, and I was 12. I told S. all the problems I had passed in my life and that my mother's boyfriend raped me. He then told my mother that her boyfriend raped me. During this time, my mother's boyfriend was in Tirana, and when he came back, S. quarreled with him because my mother and I didn't want to stay with him anymore. S. hit my mother's boyfriend with a car, and he died.
After this unfortunate situation, we went to my grandmother's house to live. My grandmother was living in an apartment which had been a hotel, but many families were living there. We got a room there. I met a friend, Z., but Z. and her mother were working as sex workers there. I found out I was two months pregnant. I aborted my baby because of these terrible conditions. I was 12 years old.
Later on, I worked as a sex worker with Z. and her mother because my mother was ill, and I didn't want to see her always suffering. When my mother heard about what I was doing, she told me not to do that work, but I said to her that I was doing this thing for her. I didn't know anything about my future, but God helped me, and I survived that time. I went to Italy with a guy I met, and he sent me to a convent. The Mother Theresa sisters there helped me very much, but I wanted to come back to Albania to my mother.
They referred me to the shelter here, and I was able to see my mother again. She was in a bad condition and told me that my father was dead, so I was so sad. Her leg was cut badly, and it was hard for me to see her.
She is now living in the same house and begging again as before. I have stayed two years in the shelter now, and I learned how to read and write here. I know how to use the computer now and can speak English and Italian. I have also successfully completed two vocational training courses, one on cosmetology and one on cooking. I feel good about myself, but I am sorry for my mother. I want to help my mother in the future, when I will be able to work.
This is my story. Thank you.
Narrative courtesy of the Association for Albanian Girls and Women
The organisation’s True Stories of trafficking survivors can be found here