Albania Mission Against
Human Trafficking

MARY WARD LORETO is planting hope with a human rights approach to combating modern day slavery. This challenging mission is implemented through works of justice, education, grass roots action and systemic change. The aim is to eradicate poverty, the prime cause for human trafficking.

Albanian Story

She had never thought that her life would be like this. She lived in a village with her family. At age 33, her family arranged a marriage in another village. She faced an even more painful reality which he left behind, not only extreme poverty, but also the suffering of physical and psychological violence. Today, at 46 years, she continues to coexist with the father of her children. The family’s only source of income is economic aid, and that is wasted on alcohol and gambling. She works the land, caring for livestock and cultivating various crops to feed the children, facing each day her husband’s alcoholism. She suffers from migraine headaches and a disc hernia that has not been treated but which has made her life more difficult. Their house is a ruin that might collapse at any moment. She came to the MWL center asking for support to live in dignity.

Bureaucracy, lack of information and facilities, these are the main reasons that farmers around Albania do not have their property documents. This means they cannot use the land to develop agriculture and this fact disempowers them and their families. Travelling in very remote villages during the research process, especially when we had the interview face to face with the men, we saw, besides the desperate poverty, a lot of “abandoned” land and resources left to one side.

According to the recommendation of the research “ challenges and Perspectives of Men in the Albanian Society” MWL, has started a process of training with these men regarding to the property registration process, and pushing them to see the potential progress that they can achieve, if they use their existing resources in the proper way.

During January and February, 200 men have participated in these training organized by MWL and led by specialist in their field in Lezha, Shkodra and Puka. We are very pleased to receive so quickly, a feedback from our collaborators in these areas. There has been an unusual increase of applications from the farmers to the office of properties (in one area, 80% increase compared to the last year).

Also we had invitations from villages and areas to help even them in this process, facilitating and explaining with a specialist all these complicated procedures.

Since the first interview, F, declared that he would like to become a mechanic. While I was asking what might be another vocational training preference, he said that it cannot be any other, , except the mechanics course. I was really surprised that a 19 years old boy could be so clear about this decision for his life and what he wanted to do. When I asked why he had not already done this he said that he couldn’t afford the costs, because the closest vocational training center was 60 km far from his town and  the transport costs totaling 500 ALL (about 4 euros) per day. His family couldn’t pay the expenses. His father is the only one who works as a guard for 22 000 ALL (approx. 162 euro) per month which is not even enough for their living without having extra expenses. Almost, half of his father’s salary would be spent for covering his travel to the vocational training center. With the support of the MWL Youth project, he was registered and followed the vocational training course. The instructor was impressed by this young boy because of his eagerness to know more. F asked the instructor if he would accept him to stay longer and the instructor accepted happily. He used to spend hours in the vocational training center’s car service after the lessons. At the end of the vocational training course, we asked the instructor if there were any possibility to do a work experience. He recommended a car service in F’s town. He contacted the owner and directed us to meet him. The owner was happy to receive F, due to the recommendations of the instructor. After a month of work experience, he employed F, and now he is happy to have on board a really passionate young worker who wants to know more and more by exploring and working.

MWLW project in Tropoje, has implemented 8 mini-businesses this year to support the empowerment of women. These mini-businesses are: opening the shop in Valbona for the sale of handicrafts made by 20 women, the implementation of 2 businesses for breeding bees, 2 mini-businesses to raise goats and produce milk, a business with cows, an economic activity with sewing and mini-business to produce postcards. Businesses with artisan characteristics have been successful so far, such as tailoring, and postcards. These were sold in the Valbona shop. For the first year (July – September 2016), the value of craft products sold was 331,320 ALL. New livestock activities showed progress in the rearing of cows and goats, and the opening the beehive business, but income takes time since they are not in the production period until later next year.

Mona has been trafficked for three years. When she was fifteen years old, she fell in love with a guy who was about twenty two years old. Her family was very conservative, so she used to meet him secretly for five months. When her brother was told by his friends about her relationship, he went immediately to his father and told him everything. Her parents told her to break up this relationship but she did not. One day when he appeared at her school she felt her heart beating fast. They started their secret relationship again. She was afraid of being discovered again by her family, so they decided together to go to Italy. Mona’s boyfriend arranged their illegal trip and they departed by night.

During that trip she was raped by her boyfriend and his friend. She knew then that she was going to be trafficked but she couldn’t escape. They blindfolded her with a scarf until they got inside the brothel, after which she didn’t see her boyfriend anymore. Mona realised that they were not in Italy, but she was sent to Greece. One year later, she was sold to a tutor who sent her illegally to Italy. She was a sex slave there for two years. She heard the tutors saying that she was an asset for their brothel, since she was very beautiful and the clients would pay a fortune for her.

Mona has been isolated many times, held in a small mouldy room, without toilet facilities and without food and water for two days. She was very badly beaten. In case she refused to serve to the clients, she was threatened with being sent to that room again.

Mona has been rescued by somebody who was there as a client. Maybe he was not a client but she didn’t mind, she needed to have faith in somebody. She told him her story and that she discovered she was pregnant. He promised to return for her and he kept his promise and he took her away with him. When they got very far away from the brothel, in another city, he advised her to run away.

She found a way to call her family, but her father told her that she was not his daughter anymore. After that, she called her aunt who lived in Italy and stayed with her for some months. She was seven months pregnant when her tutor found her and beat her so badly that it caused her abortion. He threatened her that in case she would denounce him, they would kill her sister. Mona couldn’t live with her aunt, since she was not safe anymore. Her aunt paid somebody to bring her illegally to the UK. She was afraid that the driver would be a trafficker too, but in that moment she was so desperate that she didn’t mind what was going to happen to her. She has been travelling hidden in the van for five days. Eventually, the driver told her to jump off the van while he was driving slowly and to run for help.

“I was in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, and I was horrified, but I kept walking. I had the idea that somebody was following me but I couldn’t even turn my head. By daybreak I saw a man. He asked me questions but I didn’t know any English so I couldn’t answer him, I only pronounced my name. Then he called the police”.

Mona needed a lot of time to recover, and she had her moments when she thought it was worth dying rather than live with her sad memories. But then she told herself “I have been through many tortures and have survived, I am stronger now and will do it”.