Arise helped coordinate the visit of the UK Home Affairs Committee to Albania, providing access to frontline voices and insight into the root causes of trafficking and migration. Arise Albania Coordinator, Anxhela Bruci, wrote a summary of the visit.
Last week, members from the committee visited Albania to learn more about why so many people are coming from Albania to the United Kingdom. The visiting members were Dame Diana Johnson MP, Tim Loughton MP, Adam Holloway MP, and Simon Fell MP. The committee also wanted to find out more about modern slavery in Albania and the root causes behind it. These discussions are crucial to debunk myths and work collaboratively to address these causes.
Arise, in collaboration with Mary Ward Loreto in Albania, organised a meeting with returnees from illegal migration to the UK and Europe to meet with the Committee. Enabling the committee members to speak with people who have left and returned to Albania provided a genuine insight into why someone would leave their home country, and what challenges youth and vulnerable families are facing in Albania.
During discussions with the Committee, I spoke about human trafficking in Albania and the intersection with domestic violence, given the recent spike in the numbers of gender-related killings of women and girls. Part of the discussion was surrounding the challenge of tackling human trafficking, given the low levels of prosecution of perpetrators and weak police response. In 2020, courts did not sentence a single trafficker in Albania. This also highlights the great difficulty in ensuring safety for survivors, especially those who have testified against their traffickers.
In his report on the visit, MP Simon Fell discussed the importance of addressing the root causes of youth disengagement and emigration:
'Albania is country hungry for change. The young people we spoke to are ambitious and feel held back by a stale government and inequity. The civil society groups want an end to corruption, and to see investment in the regions.
Albania is a beautiful country and has huge opportunity ahead of it. But for the UK to deliver on its interest - stopping the boats - it may well have to support changing the factors that are pushing young people to make dangerous journeys in pursuit of something better.'
Arise hopes that the government pays more attention to structural causes like those discussed, rather than pursuing regressive strategies that harm legitimate victims of trafficking, asylum seekers and refugees.
While current media narratives focus on the small boat crossings, there is a lack of discussion about Albanian victims of human trafficking in the UK, and why so many Albanians are at risk of exploitation. For context, of the 4,171 potential slavery victims referred between 1 April and 30 June 2022 in the UK, 27% (1,130) were Albanian. Such visits to Albania, from UK officials, help provide a better and more holistic understanding of the complex challenges on the ground. The next step is ensuring this intelligence informs policy that will help young Albanians build a safer and more prosperous future for the nation.
Above: The Albanian flag flying during the visit (Anxhela Bruci).