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.
Born in Albania, Miranda was trafficked into Belgium, where by some estimates Albanian girls aged 14 and 15 make up nearly half of the foreign women forced into prostitution. Many women are trafficked into richer Western European countries from the poorer Eastern countries, including Albania.
I was born in Korce in Albania in 1984. I lived with my family in the outskirts of Korce. Last summer when I was walking to a friend’s house a car drew by and two men offered to drive me to my friend’s house. One of the men was a cousin of my brother’s friend. Instead of driving me to my friend’s place, they took me to a house in Vlore, where a few other girls were staying. They told me that my brother wanted me to go to Italy, where I could work for an Albanian family and earn money to support my family. They also threatened me that bad things could happen to my family if I would resist them or try to run away. I lived for two weeks in this house. I stayed with two other girls in a small room and we were not allowed to go out. One girl came from Moldova and the other girl came from Berat.
One evening we were taken from the house and brought to the seashore. There we waited for two hours before embarking on a boat. We were accompanied by one of the men who took me to Vlore. There was also another man whom I had never seen before. There were about 40 people on this small boat. We were not allowed to speak to the other passengers but I heard that we were heading for Italy. I was scared as it was night and the boat traveled at a very high speed.
We arrived the same night in Italy and had to jump out into the water about 30 meters from the coastline. There were cars waiting to pick up some of the passengers. We were taken to a house where we stayed overnight. The next day two other men took us to the train station and we left for Milan. There was a car waiting for us and we were taken to a house where we stayed for two days. We then took the train to Paris. The men who had transferred us to Italy didn’t go with us. Only me and the girl from Moldova took off to Paris. The other girl from Albania remained in Milan. Two Albanians who accompanied us told us that if we would be controlled on the train we had to pretend to be their sisters. There was no control on that train. In Paris we took a train to Brussels where we were picked up by another man. He spoke Albanian, but I don’t think he was from my country. They drove us to a house in Antwerp.
The same night one of the men told us that we had to work in prostitution. I told him that I didn’t want to work in prostitution, but he threatened me severely. That very night I was forced by another man to have sexual intercourse. He told me that this would be a preparation for my new job. I cried and said that my brother would never agree to this. They told me that my brother was in Albania and wouldn’t be much of a help.
I worked for one month in a window. I had several clients a day and was forced to hand over all the money they paid me. I was heavily guarded by those people and beaten up on several occasions. They often threatened to kill me or harm my family if I wouldn’t comply. I was afraid of them as I knew they carried guns and were on drugs.
One night police came in the window and took me to the police station. I stayed for several hours at the police station and told my story. They referred me to the Payoke shelter where I have been staying for three weeks now. They helped me to contact my family. My father told me that my brother had been receiving threats by this gang in Korce. I want to return as quickly as possible to my family in Albania. My father is planning to move to another place as it might be dangerous for us in Korce. The social workers from Payoke are assisting me and are currently arranging my return to Albania. They also contacted an organization in Albania to assist me upon my return home.