Albania: traffic in children increases

The Albanian Mafia gangs are actively involved in trafficking of children to Italy, where they are exploited in clandestine operations, some of which are suspected of holding the victims in practices of sexual exploitation.

Ostensibly smuggled into Italy for fruit-picking, the thousands of children (usually between 12 and 17 years of age) pour out of Albania’s poorer interior regions in search of a fortune in the European Union. The dream soon turns into a nightmare for many, who find themselves grid-locked in Mafia-controlled criminal activities from which the only escape in many cases is death.

The alert has been raised by the Catholic charitable organisation, Caritas, which issued a report on the phenomenon at the end of 2001. Father Cesare Lodeserto, of the Regina Pacis Centre, said that “In Albania there is the rumour that children are untouchable in Italy”.

Maybe by Italians, but the Albanian Mafia, many of whom were formerly active in the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army, or UCK – Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves in Albanian) has been known to operate prostitution rings both inside Kosovo and Albania and abroad. Many of the Kosovar woman supposedly fleeing from the Serbs, were later discovered to have been running away from the UCK, which were rounding up the prettier girls to ship off to Italy.

In the last four years, the Italian carabinieri in Tricarico have rounded up 100 women trafficked into Italy to work in clandestine prostitution rings, and seventy children, although captain Tusa declared that “there is a decrease in the number of women and an increase in the phenomenon of the children”.

Captain Tusa added that “the Mafia which control immigration have changed their practices because the sign given by the Italian state is the dismembering of street prostitution and prostitution of minors, which will not be allowed in Tricarico. The Italian police are extending their operations to the cities of final destination in northern Italy.


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