“We were sold and bought. In Albania it is no use going to the police because they only sell you again,” says 21 yr old Anna who was dumped in the sea when the boat speeding her to Italy from Albania was intercepted. She is now an illegal immigrant but considers herself one of the lucky ones. In the last year, the coast guards patrolling the narrow stretch between Italy and Albania have pulled nearly 3500 people out of the sea. However, they have no hope of stopping the small powerful boats used by the Albanian mafia. The disappearance in Albania of thousands of young girls is a sign of the criminal anarchy gripping the country. “In our area, we have many girls who have just left without saying anything. The police didn’t help us – we don’t feel very safe,” comments an Albanian villager. The Italian police know the details of this highly organised trade, but can do little to mop up the victims; ”The girls are bought in specific apartments in Albania and come to Italy in inflatable boats,” says one officer. Most have no documents, leaving them at the mercy of their Albanian pimps. “He told me that if I run away he knows my address and would find me in Moldova and kill my whole family,” tells Anna. In Albania, local villagers are trying to fight back by writing letters to the streets girls urging them to seek help. But, without a European political will, nobody can do anything to stop the 21st century’s most visible form of slavery.
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