Subject: NEWS: Mafia smuggles refugee women into sex slavery
From: Gillian Caldwell (caldwellg@LCHR.ORG)
Date: Wed May 19 1999 - 11:31:48 EDT
Jennifer Gagliardi wrote:
> The Sunday Times, London
> May 16 1999
> John Follain in Rome and Edin Hamzic report
> on the vice trail from Kosovo
> After her husband and young son were murdered by Serbian paramilitaries,
> Alina fled Kosovo in terror. Nothing, she thought, could be worse than
> staying in her war-torn homeland. But danger lurked on the other side of
> the border. Alina, 27, escaped the Serbs only to become a prisoner in
> Italy, forced into prostitution by her Albanian captors.
> Criminal investigators fear Alina's experience could be repeated thousands
> of times as the exodus of refugees from Kosovo into Albania continues. The
> United Nations has warned that vulnerable Kosovan women are being forced
> into prostitution in the European Union by ruthless criminal gangs with
> long experience of smuggling women and children across borders into EU
> "Human traffickers are a serious threat, especially in Albania," said
> Sadako Ogata, the UN high commissioner for refugees. The situation is now
> so bad that it needs to be "forcefully addressed" by the international
> community, she believes.
> Alina, who lived in Pristina until her husband and son were killed in
> front of her by masked members of a Serbian militia within days of the
> Nato airstrikes starting, is one of the first known Kosovan refugees
> forced into prostitution by Albanian mafia gangs. In early April she was
> approached by a man in Kukes, at an Albanian refugee camp she had fled to.
> He said he would find work and a home for her in Italy.
> The Albanian drove her to the coast, from where she was smuggled in a
> speedboat across the Adriatic at night, with other illegal immigrants. She
> landed somewhere on the coast of southern Italy, to be met by four
> Albanian men.
> They took her to Triggiano, a village south of the port of Bari. There,
> she later told Italian police, she was confined to a 16 sq metre airless
> room in a decrepit house with three other young women - Shpresa, 25, from
> Drenica in Kosovo, and two Albanians. The women had to share two torn
> mattresses and were fed only tinned food and bread.
> Her four guards, who shared the bedroom next door, let her out under
> escort only at night. "I was already mourning the loss of my husband and
> my son, and now I was forced to sell my body," Alina said. "The Albanians
> told me, 'Do this or we will beat you; do this or we will kill you.' "
> "This" meant dressing in a miniskirt, fishnet stockings and high heels,
> packing a few condoms into her handbag and parading the seafront motorway
> south of Bari, or plying her enforced trade in small towns nearby. The
> four captives earned 1.5m lire (about #500) each a night - none of which
> they were allowed to keep.
> Alina's ordeal finally ended 10 days ago, when police raided the house.
> Two of the Albanians escaped arrest by fleeing over the rooftops. The two
> others, who turned out to be from the Albanian port of Durres, were caught
> and charged with abetting illegal immigration and prostitution, kidnapping
> and enslavement, and face several years in jail.
> The next day, with a magistrate's approval, Alina headed back to Albania
> by ferry. Others, however, are sure to take her place. Italian relief
> workers at refugee camps in Vlore on the Albanian coast have reported
> visits by men who then leave the camp with young women. In one case, a
> 16-year-old was taken away from a camp set up by volunteers from Italy's
> Piemonte region.
> The man who took her had a Kalashnikov slung across his back and told
> relief workers he was a policeman. "There are 2,000 Kosovan refugees in
> our camp," said Father Giovanni Mercurio, who manages the Rezervat E
> Shteti centre in Vlore. "For a month now police have been taking girls
> away and we are not told their destination. But we can't do anything about
> Relief agencies have reported their concerns to the Italian interior
> ministry, but a government spokesman said there was little the authorities
> could do. "The girls are free, the refugee camps are not prisons. They are
> at liberty to do what they want and that can include being hired by
> Albanian criminals. The best way to stop that happening," he said, "is to
> have European countries take in refugees and care for them."
> Last year, however, a Sunday Times investigation revealed that girls as
> young as 14 were being kidnapped or bought from their families in Albania
> to be sold for #800 each into the white slave trade in Britain. Thousands
> of women like Alina have been smuggled into Italy by sea and then
> transported overland to London, Hamburg and other western European cities.
> In Durres, The Sunday Times was told that the price had since risen to
> #1,300. "Albanian mafia gangs are very vicious," a recent Home Office
> report emphasised. "They make the Italian mafia look like crowd-control
> officers at a local whist drive."
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