In its third report on Albania’s implementation of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No.197), the Council of Europe’s group of experts (GRETA) finds that some progress has been made, but cautions that more needs to be done to deal with this type of crime.
GRETA welcomes the fact that since its previous evaluation in 2016, the country’s legislation has been amended to strengthen the rights and position of victims. The National Action Plan for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings 2018-2020 contains activities intended to improve the identification, protection and reintegration of victims and is supported by a dedicated budget. Further, a Victim Advisory Board was set up by the Office of the National Anti-Trafficking Co-ordinator, involving survivors of human trafficking.
The evaluation report focuses on access to justice and effective remedies for human trafficking victims. While acknowledging that human trafficking victims are entitled to free legal aid regardless of their income, GRETA urges the Albanian authorities to ensure that they receive specialised legal assistance and legal aid at an early stage. GRETA is concerned that there has been only one criminal court decision on compensation of a victim of trafficking, and there is still no functioning state compensation scheme available to victims of trafficking. The Albanian authorities are urged to make efforts to facilitate and guarantee victims’ access to compensation, by ensuring that the collection of evidence about the harm the victim has suffered is part of the criminal investigations, and by making full use of the legislation on the freezing and forfeiture of assets.
The existence of specialised police unit investigating human trafficking cases is welcomed by GRETA, but concern is expressed at the low number of convictions. GRETA calls on the authorities to take additional measures to ensure that human trafficking cases are investigated proactively, making use of special investigation techniques and financial investigations in order to gather evidence. The authorities must provide training and encourage the specialisation of prosecutors and judges to deal with human trafficking cases, ensuring that they lead to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.