DASH Trafficking Report: Kosovo Government Fails to Meet Minimum Standards in Key Areas – Latest News
The State Department on Thursday released its 2021 report on human trafficking.
This year’s report comes at a time when many countries faced the COVID-19 pandemic. It is considered the world’s most comprehensive source of government anti-trafficking efforts and reflects the US government’s commitment to taking a leading role in this key issue of human rights and law enforcement.
In a statement accompanying the report, the Secretary of State said that “it calls on governments to join the United States in improving collective efforts to address human trafficking in a comprehensive manner.”
This seeks, as he puts it, to “mitigate harmful practices and policies that cause socio-economic or political weaknesses that traffickers often exploit.”
The United States recognizes two major forms of human trafficking: forced labor or so-called modern-day slavery and sex trafficking.
As COVID-19 caused a global economic downturn and increased the number of individuals vulnerable to human trafficking, traffickers adapted their existing tactics to take advantage of unique pandemic circumstances. Human traffickers targeted the growing number of people unable to adapt or build resilience in the face of deteriorating economic and social effects. They also took advantage of situations where screening and identifying victims became even more difficult.
The report divides the countries into three levels, the first of which includes those countries and territories whose governments fully comply with the required minimum standards. Level 2 includes countries and territories whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards, but which are making considerable efforts to comply with them. While in the third level are introduced countries that do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
Albania and Kosovo continue to rank second in the report.
The report states that the Albanian government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making considerable efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increased efforts, compared to the previous reporting period, given the impact of the pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity and therefore remained at the second level. These efforts included prosecuting more defendants and significantly increasing government-funded victim shelters.
The report says that the government reduced the efforts of law enforcement agencies in this regard. It is also said that the courts did not convict any traffickers (while they had convicted five in 2019). The Court of Appeals reviewed and upheld the verdicts for the three traffickers (as many in 2019). The government suspended the courts from March to April 2020 due to pandemic mitigation efforts when judicial staff tested positive for COVID-19.
The report said the government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. It continued the implementation of the national action plan for the years 2018-2020 and allocated a fund of 4.87 million dollars for its implementation. The State Committee against Trafficking in Persons, composed of representatives of the relevant ministries, monitored and implemented various anti-trafficking efforts.
The report states that as in the last five years, traffickers in human beings exploit domestic and foreign victims in Albania and abroad. They exploit Albanian women and children for sex trafficking and forced labor within the country, especially during the tourist season by making false promises such as marriage or job offers. Traffickers usually force children to beg or perform other types of forced labor, such as selling small items. They use Albanian children, mainly from the Roma and Egyptian communities from different Balkan countries, for seasonal work and forced begging. According to some isolated reports, traffickers exploit children through forced labor in cannabis fields in Albania, and some traffickers are likely to be involved in drug trafficking. Traffickers exploit Albanian victims of sex trafficking in countries across Europe, particularly in Kosovo, Greece, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, northern Macedonia, Norway, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Foreign victims from European countries, the Gambia and the Philippines are exploited for sex trafficking and forced labor in Albania. Migrants from the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa passing through Albania to reach Western Europe are vulnerable to trafficking, especially unaccompanied children.
The report recommends vigorous investigation, prosecution and punishment of traffickers, including collaborating officials.
The report states that the Kosovo government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increased overall efforts compared to the previous reporting period, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity, so it remained at level 2, as stated in the report. Efforts included adopting new standard procedures to increase the efficiency of prosecutions and setting up a trafficking contact point at the seven main prosecutor’s offices. The government increased resources for victim protection, including funding for NGO-run and state-run anti-trafficking shelters. However, the report said, the government did not meet the minimum standards in some key areas. Fewer traffickers were convicted and judges continued to impose inadequate sentences on convicted traffickers.
As for prevention efforts, the report says the government has stepped up efforts to prevent trafficking, particularly due to the pandemic.
The report states that criminal networks exploited victims of sex trafficking within the country. Many victims of sex trafficking in Kosovo are girls, although traffickers have also forced women from Albania, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and other European countries into sex trafficking. Women and girls are exploited for sex trafficking in private homes and apartments, nightclubs and massage parlors. Children from Kosovo, Albania and other neighboring countries are forced to beg inside the country. Traffickers subject Kosovo citizens to sex trafficking and forced labor throughout Europe. Marginalized Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are vulnerable to forced begging and sex trafficking. The report also states that persons from the LGBTQI + community, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees also experience a higher risk of trafficking.
The report states that the government maintained the efforts of law enforcement agencies in this regard. But the report says corruption and co-operation of officials in trafficking crimes remained a concern, hampering the actions of law enforcement structures during the year. The report cites a case in 2016, when prosecutors charged two police officers with two separate cases alleging abuse of official position and the sexual exploitation of victims of trafficking. In 2019, the Basic Court of Prishtina released one of the officers.
The report recommends that the Kosovo government vigorously investigate, prosecute and prosecute traffickers, including collaborating officials, and punish traffickers sentenced to prison in accordance with established sentences.
The Human Trafficking Report for 2021 reflects the efforts of some 190 countries against sex trafficking and what is known as modern slavery. Some second tier countries are categorized as what is considered the second tier under observation while three countries like Libya Somalia and Yemen are considered as special cases. / VOA