Deputy Minister Mrs. Rovena Voda, Anti-Trafficking Coordinators from Montenegro and Macedonia, Terre des Hommes colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Some of the most emotional moments I have experienced in Albania have been during my visits to the amazing NGO trafficking shelters here in Albania. I have met young girls, some just 14-years old, who have already returned from being trafficked. This is an unthinkable crime and is completely against the values of the people who live in Albania and the Western Balkans.
It disgusts me that some of the elected leaders of this country, and I presume other countries in the region, have been the men that that sold these innocent girls into slavery. They should be arrested and punished to the full extent of the law.
To do this, the countries of this region need to think about law enforcement and service delivery in a regional context. I congratulate Albania for the regional leadership it has shown, including for hosting a conference two years ago for 10 anti-trafficking coordinators to discuss the prevention of trafficking in children. Trafficking-in-persons is not an issue that can be solved without intensive regional cooperation.
The U.S. State Department recognizes this and has provided a generous grant to Terre des Hommes to support governments and NGOs in the region to formulate a regional network of cooperation. Terre des Hommes has had a long and successful experience working in Albania and is respected for its effective work on trafficking here.
We are especially excited about this Project’s work on pioneering new victim reintegration efforts, because the long-term goal is not only to get victims into the shelters, but to allow them to emerge from the shelters with skills, financial security, and confidence. This project will help that.
Lastly, we call on governments throughout the region, but particularly here in Albania, to continue to provide funding for shelters for trafficked women and children. In the case of Albania, the government here needs not only to commit politically to providing that funding, it needs to deliver those funds in reality. They are not doing this today.
Good luck to Terre des Hommes in implementing this important project. You have our full support.