Minister Tahiri, Deputy Minister Gjebrea, dear participants,
I am first and foremost a father. When I travel around Albania I see faces that remind me of my children. I felt the same way when I visited the shelters for victims of human trafficking in Vlore, Elbasan and Tirana. I was shocked to see girls there that looked not much older than my kids. These brave girls deserve better lives than the ones they have lived so far.
The fall of Communism offered many new opportunities for Albania. Tragically, the chaos of the transition also allowed organized crime groups and human traffickers to prey on young Albanian women and girls.
In recent years, this country has made significant progress in fighting this terrible crime. Since 2014, the Government of Albania has taken bold steps to increase prosecutions and convictions of traffickers. It is training officials to identify and to help trafficking victims. And for the first time, it is providing salaries for some of the professionals in Albania’s three NGO shelters.
But there is still work to be done in the areas of prosecution of traffickers, protection of victims and education of citizens to prevent trafficking. You should be proud that Albania has dedicated NGOs, led by incredibly brave men and women, working to support and protect trafficking victims. These shelter workers are real Albanian heroes.
I want to thank Deputy Minister Gjebrea for her great personal commitment to this issue, particularly during October as we strengthen our efforts to raise awareness. In this month of focus on awareness, I hope that we all rededicate ourselves anew to the fight against trafficking.