Tirana, 12 June 2024 – The Child Rights Center Albania (CRCA/ECPAT Albania) and the Albanian National Child Helpline (ALO 116), two leading organizations for the rights of the child, through this public statement, want to raise our serious concern on the widespread exploitation of children for economic and sexual purposes and the lack of attention of public authorities at the central and local level to Implement child and family supporting and empowering programs.

ALO 116 data for the last year shows that compared to 2017, reports on child exploitation for labour increased by 40 percent. In 2023 alone, ALO recorded 389 children exploited for work. During January-May 2024, 159 exploited children have been reported. These numbers are only a small part of the big picture of child exploitation for economic and sexual purposes in Albania.

Lack of official data on child exploitation by responsible public institutions has made the situation even more difficult. For more than 10 years, no public institution has published any data on child exploitation for economic or sexual purposes. The latest report on this issue is from 2010 (INSTAT/ILO), which showed that about 7 percent of children in Albania were exploited for labour, most of them in domestic labour.

While many other countries implement national programs to ensure that no child grows up in poverty, Albania has never had such a program, despite civil society demanding it for over 20 years. The current cash handout scheme was never conceived by the Government as a national program to move people out of poverty and serve as a protective net for every individual and family at risk. It was given and still is as a charity to sustain and prolong the poverty of the families that become part of it. Although the scheme has been in place since 2006, there are no serious and independent reports of its effectiveness in reducing or removing its beneficiary families from poverty.

Albania’s economic development, especially in the tourism sector, especially over the past two years, is a good opportunity for the country to address some of the major problems, such as inequalities in development of deprived communities and areas. However, the analysis of the national budget over the last 10 years shows a reduction of the GDP in investments made by the Government for children and young people. The national budget, beyond promises, has been reduced year after year, both for social care, as well as for education, two areas where studies show that investments always bring benefits 3-5 times more. Lack of child indicators makes it even more difficult to measure investments made by the national budget or municipalities for children and young people, an indicator in itself of the lack of attention towards children.

Albania today faces serious labour shortages due to high youth migration to EU countries and the development that the tourism sector has achieved. However, in the base of the economic development remains small family businesses, which in the absence of labour, may find the solution to employment of children and adolescents within the wider family circle. This is favoured also by cultural traditions and practices, where children are encouraged to work from early on to help the family.

A joint study of ECPAT Albania and ECPAT Germany (2022) on the protection of children from sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism sector showed that Albania had serious shortcomings in protecting children from sexual exploitation. Despite this concern being affirmed by the Concluding Recommendations on Albania from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (September 2023), the authorities have not yet to take any measures to address these serious concerns to date. We strongly believe that the lack of measures and programs to protect and support children from any form of exploitation, especially at the local level, risks turning our country into an oasis of economic and sexual exploitation of children and adolescents!

In this regard, CRCA/ECPAT Albania and ALO 116-111 recommend the following measures:

  1. The Ministry of Health and Social Protection, as the responsible institution for children, should immediately start discussions on the preparation and approval of the Child Guarantee.
  2. Part of the Child Guarantee should also be the National Plan for the Elimination of Child Labour, the Child Support Scheme and the provision of at least one free hot meal for every child attending public kindergartens and schools;
  3. Municipalities bear the prime responsibility for establishing social services for the care and protection of children and families. The lack of these services is closely related to the exploitation of children for labour. In this context, the Social Fund, and the law on social services, should place obligations for the establishment of mandatory basic social services in every municipality of Albania.
  4. The General Prosecutor’s Office together with the National Police and the National Agency for Child Rights and Protection, should sign a cooperation agreement, where every case of child exploitation will be prosecuted, and all perpetrators be brought to justice. Only close cooperation and strict implementation of the Criminal Code can prevent the exploitation of children for economic and sexual purposes.

The Albanian Government has the duty to provide protection, care and development to every child, regardless of the social or economic situation of their parents or families. This is not only a legal obligation, but also an objective that brings Albania closer to European Union standards. We hope this statement is a wakeup call to all public institutions and officials on the dangers that children and young people face every day in Albania. We invite the Government and all parliamentary political parties to turn their eyes towards the children! They cannot be the future if they don’t have a today!

Detajet e Lajmit
June 12, 2024