Friday, July 17, 2009

The Speedboats of Albania

Albania has a huge human trafficking problem, where woman are lied to or sold to men who take them to other parts of Europe to work as sex slaves. Experts fear that a recient change in laws could make the problem grow. It's a law involving speedboats.

From this New York Times article, Dan Bilefsky examines the problem. We would highly recommend hitting our link to the full article, that gives more about the history of history of human trafficking in Albania, as well as a harrowing tale from one of it's victims.

So many women, men and children had been trafficked abroad to work as prostitutes, forced laborers or beggars that the Albanian government three years ago barred all Albanian citizens from using speedboats, the favored transportation used by traffickers to get people out of the country.

This drastic measure, coupled with stricter border controls and revenge killings of traffickers by victims’ families, had a significant effect, reducing trafficking by more than half and all but ending Albania’s role as a major transit point for people trafficked to Western Europe from eastern and southern parts of the Continent, say experts who follow trafficking.

But the ban prompted loud protests from fishermen and people in the tourism industry, and in May it was reversed. Law enforcement and human rights officials are concerned that as a result, human trafficking may explode anew — at an especially difficult time.

The financial crisis, many experts said, could increase human trafficking around the world. A United States State Department report in June warned of the potential risk, saying that the crisis is causing “a shrinking demand for labor and a growing supply of workers willing to take ever greater risks for economic opportunities.”

In the case of Albania, a poor, southern Balkan country that joined NATO in April and seeks to join the European Union, the government’s ability to fight trafficking is viewed as a critical test.

At the height of the trafficking, experts estimate, thousands of women, men and children were taken to nearby Greece and Italy and elsewhere for sexual exploitation or forced labor.

The United Nations estimates that 12.3 million people globally are employed in sexual servitude or forced labor. Many are lured by fake engagements, real marriages or false job offers. In some cases, victims have been sold by their families. Others go voluntarily.

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