Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
September 25th, 2003
Dying to Leave
Human Trafficking Worldwide: Albania

Female victims are trafficked to Italy and other EU countries for sexual exploitation.

Type: Source and Transit Country



Albania was an economic ruin when it emerged 12 years ago from the ironfisted rule of communist dictator Enver Hoxha. High rates of poverty and unemployment, a crumbling infrastructure, and corrupt elected officials made the nation fertile ground for smuggling in drugs, weapons, and women. Albania’s government has estimated the number of Albanian women and girls trafficked to Western Europe and other Balkan countries between 1991 and 1999 for sexual exploitation at 100,000. Criminal organizations based in the capital Tirana and the cities of Vlora, Bekat, Shkodra, and Fier rely on speedboats for transporting victims across the Adriatic Sea to Italy, a trafficking stronghold. Albania’s northern regions were more sheltered from the trade thanks to the prevalence in rural communities of a traditional code that dictates revenge killings for traffickers who lay hold of a female family member. However, by the late 1990s, lack of economic opportunity had undermined even this traditional safeguard as thousands of Albanian men and boys went abroad to work. Today, trafficking victims come from all parts of Albania; in particular, from rural areas where poverty is higher, education levels lower, and familiarity with traffickers’ ploys less extensive.


Albania not only supplies women and girls for the international sex trade, but also acts as a major hub through which women from countries further East are taken to Western European markets. Albanian women and girls are either lured by false promises of marriage or offers of legitimate employment or kidnapped to work as prostitutes. Ranging in age from 14 to 35, girls trafficked from Albania are among the youngest victims worldwide, with as many as 80 percent of them younger than 18, according to a 2000 Save the Children report. They are brought to work primarily in Italy as street prostitutes, the most dangerous and unpredictable form of prostitution. Some Albanian girls are trafficked to other countries such as Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In Italy, according to a 2001 Save the Children report, Albanian pimps reportedly expect their teen-aged prostitutes to earn between $200-$550 a night. Most of the women never receive a cut of the money they make.

Foreign women and girls, the majority of whom are from Moldova and Romania, are also trafficked through Albania for sexual exploitation. Brought in via Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, or Macedonia, they are bought and sold in Albania before being sent to the port cities of Durres or Vlora for passage to Italy.

Albanian children, both boys and girls, are trafficked to Greece and Italy to beg, wash car windows, and deal in drugs. Most of those trafficked come from Albania’s ethnic Roma minority, a traditionally disadvantaged group. Often in exchange for a monthly stipend, very poor families give their children to traffickers, who take them across the border to Greece by foot or by boat to Italy to work as forced laborers. The children’s parents only receive a small fraction of what they earn, which may average almost $1,000 per month, according to the 2001 Save the Children report “Child Trafficking in Albania.”

Counter-Trafficking Efforts

After years of denying that trafficking was a problem, Albania has recently reversed course. Driving the bid for change is the country’s desire to enter the European Union — an ambition that could be undermined by international criticism of the government’s response to the trafficking problem. In 2001, Albania made trafficking in women and children a criminal offense and adopted a national plan to fight human trafficking. In conjunction with the National Action Plan, TV programs are broadcast to raise awareness about traffickers’ methods and the government has paired with NGOs to train teachers to educate students about the trafficking issue. Albanian police have patrolled the Adriatic since 2002 together with Italian law enforcement in a successful attempt to curb the speedboat traffic that ferries victims from Albania to Italy. Much work still remains for Tirana, however. Corruption among police and elected officials is high — a situation that can interfere with the successful prosecution of traffickers. Though prosecutions have increased, conviction and sentencing rates remain low.

  • wislie27

    i thnk that albanians shuld change their way how they see the woman like an object they shuld leave womans to choose whos the best for them and they [the womans ]shuld not let themself go so down they shuld care more about themself because divorc sometimes is the best thing to to anyway is something we can only say because albanian womans are way to tradicional

  • S. Stephens

    It is good to see that Albania is included in this report on trafficking of human beings. However, the information on this site this a bit out of date. It would be helpful to update it to correct some mis-information and reflect the changing dynamics of the “business” in Albania.

    USAID funded a 6-year capacity building program in Albania to increase civil society and government capacities to combat trafficking of women and children. This Coordinated Action Against Human Trafficking program formally concluded in September 2009. The cooperation established through it continues. Those who would like to learn more about Albanian efforts to stop human trafficking through this program can visit the web site

  • Krystyna Simmons

    Hello my name is krystyna Simmons I have just read about the trafficking article. I didn’t know that thing like this exsit in different countries. I looked this article up by searching it on google because I watched this movie callled taken, and in that movie two girls were kidnapped by albainan people to be forced into prostitution. I wondered if things like this acually happen to young women.

  • Besfort

    Hello, i would like to ask you any reference if it is possible about the number of victims’ estimates around 100 000 that you mention above. It is very important for my master’s research this information and its accuracy.thanks in advance

  • Besfort

    Please any reference for the numbers of victims (100 000 estimated by the albanian government during 91-98)

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 WNET.ORG Properties LLC. All rights reserved.