The following statement was released by the Albanian anti-trafficking network URAT, the United Response Against Trafficking, and describes the trafficking of men and boys.
Boys and Men
The trafficking of men and boys is very widespread, despite being less considered or discussed. The experiences of trafficked men and boys include various forms of trafficking. Men and boys are exploited for forced labour, sexual exploitation, the use and involvement in low-level criminal activities (theft and distribution of narcotics), and for forced begging.
"They threatened me, forced me to distribute narcotics and steal. At that time I slept on the street because my father abused me and was drunk all the time. I haven't spoken for 1 year with my mother and relatives where I used to go several times. There were some grown-up boys who taught me how to steal bicycles and then sell cannabis”
These are the words of Andi, a 15-year-old boy, with whom the Tirana Mobile Unit has come into contact. Andi comes from a family with severe social and dysfunctional problems.
Many men do not see themselves as victims of trafficking and may refuse to be formally identified as such. There are many specific reasons supporting men's challenge to identify themselves and especially to formally identify themselves as victims of trafficking and seek help.
Boys between 12 and 20 years old are more at risk of being pressured and swept into low-level criminal activities, sexual exploitation and begging. Traffickers exploit these boys through threats of violence, or false promises and temptations. The 20-30 year old age group are most at risk of forced labour. In this case, they are deceived by promises of well-paid jobs and other benefits such as housing or food, etc.
Some of the boys are deceived and do not consider themselves victims, adding that they did everything for the family or to survive. Some of them are not able to consider themselves exploited because they earn some income from the activity, although the exploiters get most of it.
There are numerous barriers victims face before seeking help:
Stigma for victims of sexual exploitation
Victims of sexual exploitation might hesitate to speak openly to the police about their experience of being trafficked. Some of them are afraid of the prejudice and stigma that could accompany the process, fear that someone from the family could learn what had happened, and fear that they might find out about their sexual orientation. Also, regarding the sexual exploitation of boys, the topic is considered a cultural taboo in many societies, and it is extremely difficult for boys to share this painful experience. In many cases, they choose to remain silent and consider this trauma a dark, unexplored part of their past.
There are many boys who blame themselves for what happened to them.
Fear of traffickers
Fear of possible consequences is another reason why in some cases they deny their human trafficking experience or refuse to give the name of the trafficker. One of the reasons most boys do not report the trafficker is that they believe their traffickers have dangerous associates. Even if the trafficker could be put in prison, he might use his friends to threaten the victims or his family.
URAT - Operations Update - July 2023
Above: URAT Network awareness activities, Summer 2023
Increased coordination has become more critical with the current dynamics within human trafficking, and the URAT anti-trafficking network is working towards promoting human dignity and creating an accessible network for anti-trafficking actors and victims of trafficking.
In order to increase awareness against human trafficking and to strengthen cooperation with public institutions, during the month of July 2023, the organisations in the URAT network have undertaken awareness campaigns to emphasise the role that identification has in the fight against trafficking.
The activities developed included:
Awareness sessions against human trafficking at the Morina border crossing point in Kukës, where the mobile unit and representatives from the Kukës Municipality, the Prefecture, the Social Services of the Municipality, health institutions, Tëtër Vizion, Terre des Homme, and young people were present.
Awareness activities with representatives from the Municipalities, social services and health centres, representatives of the police, the municipality and social services in Vlora, Dibër and Berat.
Meetings held in rural areas of the Municipality of Tirana, regarding the identification, referral and case management of children who need protection and/or empowerment services.
Awareness activities in Tirana and Shkodër with representatives of health centres, the labour inspectorate and the police to identify possible victims of trafficking.
Training sessions on human trafficking indicators with service providers in Saranda, including Delvina and Konispol.
Working in partnership to mobilise the actors responsible for reducing human trafficking in Albania is the main priority of the URAT network.
United we are stronger!