Protection and prevention of human trafficking in Albania (TIP2018)

The government maintained victim protection efforts. The
government and NGOs identified 105 potential trafficking
victims (95 in 2016). Of these, 49 were adults and 56 were
children (51 adults and 44 children in 2016), 80 were female
and 25 were male (84 females and 11 males in 2016), and nine
were foreigners (eight in 2016). Seventy-nine were identified
as potential victims and 26 officially identified as victims (62
potential victims and 33 officially identified victims in 2016).
A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism (NRM)
provided standard operating procedures (SOPs) for identifying
and referring victims to services. The government, with the support of NGOs, reactivated mobile identification units in
three regions, but the unit’s sustainability was uncertain due
to a lack of permanent staff, formalization, and resources;
mobile identification units identified 26 potential victims.
Additionally, the government referred 60 potential victims,
civil society referred 16, and three self-identified. Observers
reported police did not consistently identify trafficking victims
among individuals in prostitution and the labor inspectorate
lacked the training to identify victims of forced labor. Similarly,
identification efforts for forced begging remained inadequate,
particularly among unaccompanied children, street children, and
children moving across the borders for begging. First responders
referred potential trafficking victims to law enforcement and
state social services who conducted a joint interview and
provided official victim status. The law provided equal services
for both potential victims and officially recognized victims.
The government operated one specialized shelter and supported
three specialized NGO-run shelters. The government provided
20.2 million lek ($182,640) to NGO-run shelters to support
29 staff salaries, compared to 15.3 million lek ($138,340) to
support 24 staff salaries in 2016. The government used 4.7
million lek ($42,500) in 2016 and 2017 from the special fund
of seized criminal assets to support services. The government
provided 5.5 million lek ($49,730) for food support to NGOrun
shelters, compared to 1.8 million lek ($16,280) in 2016.
However, the government reorganized the Ministry of Social
Welfare and Youth and State Social Services into the new
Ministry of Health and Social Care, which contributed to
delays in funding, including funding for staff salaries and food
support. NGO-run shelters operated under financial constraints
and relied on outside sources for operating costs; government
financial mechanisms intended to partially fund these shelters
remained complicated. The four shelters comprised the National
Coalition of Anti-trafficking Shelters (NCATS) and victims who
required services not available in one shelter were referred to
another shelter within the coalition. The NCATS provided
assistance to trafficking victims, including food, counseling,
legal assistance, medical care, educational services, employment
services, assistance to victims’ children, financial support, longterm
accommodation, social activities, vocational training, and
post-reintegration follow-up. The government provided free
vocational training, textbooks for child victims, and health
cards that provided free access to health care; however, the
government offered limited reintegration support and did not
provide funding for reintegration services. Experts reported first
responders often referred individuals that were not trafficking
victims to the government-run shelter, including individuals
with mental health issues or victims of other crimes. NGO-run
shelters supported 71 trafficking victims and potential victims
(75 in 2016) and the state-run shelter supported 30 (30 in 2016).
NGO-run shelters allowed adult victims to leave the shelter
voluntarily, but the state-run shelter required victims to seek
approval from the director of the shelter. One NGO-run shelter
provided specialized services for child victims under the age of
18 and male victims were provided with rented apartments,
where they received assistance from NGOs. Foreign victims
had access to the same services as domestic victims and the law
provided foreign victims a three-month reflection period with
temporary residency status and authorization to work for up
to two years. The government granted residency to six foreign
victims in 2017 (none in 2016). Observers reported professional
staff and good quality of care at the shelters in the NCATS but
reported low staff levels at the government-run shelter after
staff were transferred to the domestic violence center and the
facility required renovations.
The government penalized one victim for an unlawful act
committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; as
in similar cases in past years, authorities convicted an officially
identified trafficking victim for prostitution and sentenced
her to eight months of probation. The government may have
deported, detained, or restricted freedom of movement of
some trafficking victims due to inadequate identification
efforts. SCPO possessed equipment that allowed testimony via
video conferences and victims who testified against traffickers
had access to the witness protection program; one trafficking
victim participated in the program. The government adopted
several laws strengthening child protection within the criminal
justice system, such as the participation of a psychologist in
criminal proceedings involving children. Twenty-three trafficking
victims cooperated with law enforcement in investigations and
prosecutions; however, the government did not consistently
apply victim-centered investigations and prosecutions. Law
enforcement did not consistently offer sufficient security and
support, victims and their families received threats during
court proceedings, and some victims appeared in front of their
traffickers in court proceedings, causing re-traumatization.
Victims could obtain restitution from the government or file civil
suits against traffickers; no victim had ever received restitution.
The law provided repatriation assistance to Albanians citizens
identified abroad; four potential victims were repatriated from
Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, and Norway (none in 2017).

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The
government allocated 5.7 million lek ($51,540) to the Office
of the National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator (ONAC) in 2016
and 2017. The national action plan expired in December
2017, but ONAC, in cooperation with an international
organization, convened three meetings with stakeholders to
begin developing a new plan. ONAC continued to publish
regular activity reports on its website and held four meetings
with stakeholders involved in the NRM. Observers reported
prosecutors rarely attended NRM meetings. Twelve regional
anti-trafficking committees (RATC) comprising local officials
and NGOs worked on prevention and victim assistance. The
prime minister issued an order to strengthen the RATCs by
mandating the government agencies required to participate,
including social services, law enforcement, labor inspectors,
and health representatives. ONAC and national anti-trafficking
coordinators from Montenegro and Kosovo signed a joint
declaration ensuring the application of a unified SOP for
victim protection and assisted voluntary repatriation. ONAC,
in cooperation with civil society, conducted a month long
awareness campaign and separate awareness campaigns targeting
students and teachers. ONAC also conducted informative
meetings with representatives from the Romani and Balkan
Egyptian communities. The hotline received six calls that
were trafficking-related and referred to law enforcement. The
government did not make efforts to regulate or punish labor
recruiters for illegal practices that increase migrants’ vulnerability
to exploitation abroad. Labor inspectors did not have authority
to inspect informal work activities, including unregistered
businesses. The government conducted awareness campaigns
on sex tourism but did not take steps to reduce demand for
forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking guidance
for its diplomatic personnel, and the national coordinator
briefed Albanian diplomats stationed in nine cities on human
trafficking regulations.

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