Tirana, 2 October 2019 - CRCA/ECPAT Albania through this public statement would like to express its deep concern on the latest case of sexual violence and bullying against a 12-year-old girl, reported on the national media, who was in the care of the Child Residential Centre in Tirana.
“Fix Fare” an investigative journalism programme on national TV Top Channel, during the last two days, has reported the case of a young girl, who claims that she was sexually abused and bullied by her peers, who at that time were under the care of the Government and were living at a Child Residential Institution in Tirana. The statements of the child and her mother, interviews with managers and staff of the institution, showing recurring violence in the residence, while rules, standards and policies seems to be missing on how to protect children from sexual violence, discrimination, neglect, and exploitation.
This is not the first time that child-care residential centres, mostly used for children without parents, have been the focus of allegations and reports of the use of physical and sexual violence against children. On 19 May 2016, CRCA/ECPAT Albania publicly requested the closure of all residential institutions, due to repeated cases of physical and sexual violence in public and private residential institutions across the country. Despite this demand, the public institutions chose not to take any action, while the violence and sexual harassment against children continue to occur, as it is reflected in recent media reports.
Given this, CRCA/ECPAT Albania, after careful consideration of all factors that promote, encourage or nurture sexual violence against children, today publicly asks the Government of Albania, and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection to close once and for all the system of permanent residential centres for children.
In the light of this request, we recommend the following measures that shall be taken by the Albanian Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection:
1. The Parliament of Albania should adopt in an expedited procedure the establishment of an Child Abuse Inquiry Committeeto investigate violence, neglect or sexual exploitation that may have been committed against children who lived and still live in residential care (public or private), including historical sexual violence. Victims of any act of violence expect their Government to show the utmost responsibility in hearing and reporting their stories, holding every abuser accountable, and redressing the harm inflicted on them while in the care of the public authorities;
2. The Albanian Parliament should prioritize legislative changes and improvements to the Family Code and other laws that would enable the establishment of a national system of foster care as an alternative family-based care for all the children left without parents or who come from disintegrated or abusive families. Such a system should include continuous and professional monitoring of foster families and their strong financial support;
3. The Albanian Government should, based on a detailed plan, close every child-care residential institutionand return all current residential centres into co-administered Child Day Care Centres for Social and Community Work, in cooperation with child rights organizations, funded by the Social Fund.
CRCA / ECPAT Albania welcomes the efforts of media in Albania to address cases of violence and sexual exploitation of children, as well as other problems related to state-run institutions.