By Monica Jerbi
News reports about the problem of human trafficking—the illegal trading of human beings—in Albania have been so shocking over the years, they seem like science fiction:
- Tens of thousands of Albanian girls were kidnapped and forced into prostitution after the fall of the Iron Curtain, according to a 2001 ABC News report. The Albanian trafficking problem was so extreme, ABC News reported, Albanian prostitutes in Europe represented almost 1 percent of the Albanian population.
- Albanian pimps are "dominating the European arena" of trafficking in human beings, The Guardian reported in 2003, with 65 percent of those enticed away from Albania under 18.
- Since the mid-1990s, an average of one child a week has disappeared in Albania, according to a 2007 Journeyman Pictures documentary (featured top right). The video explains that most children and women who disappear are trafficked into sex work or forced labor but a few end up in the hands of organized crime groups illegally harvesting human organs.
- In recent years, Albanian children have been increasingly trafficked for exploitation inside Albania, according to a 2012 Save the Children report. Besides engaging in forced sex work, these children work as street or shop vendors, beggars, farmers or shepherds, drug runners, and factory workers.
To make better use of technology to change this harsh reality, NetHope developed an anti-trafficking Android app for worldwide use in partnership with World Vision and the Vodafone Foundation with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding. NetHope chose Albania for the app’s first implementation under the local name “Raporto-Shpeto” ("Report-Save Life”).
Albania's Ministry of Internal Affairs' National Coordinator Office for Anti-Trafficking hosted a conference today to launch the new app along with a new pan-European six digit short code number for an anti-trafficking hotline—116 006. World Vision Albania, Vodafone Albania Foundation, and the Government of Albania worked together to identify the new hotline number—needed much more than someone from outside of Albania might first think.
"Before today, only a few Albanians had the power to report human trafficking. The old national hotline number could only be dialed with a landline, but many Albanians, especially those living in rural areas, only use mobile phones. Fixing this problem and the new app will enable communities to learn about human trafficking, mobilize, and help victims” said Alison Padget, Program Manager of NetHope’s Combating of Trafficking in Persons (cTIP) Program.
The new free hotline number was built into the app, which contains the following features:
- Hotline direct dial: Calls the free national anti-trafficking hotline directly.
- Map to services: Displays a map showing services for victims (shelters, hospitals, etc.) nearest the user's location.
- Services database: Displays the same information as the map in a list form for users who don't have GPS-enabled phones or are looking for a particular type of service.
- Report trafficking: Allows the user to report suspected trafficking to the authorities directly via SMS/text and email.
- Knowledge center: Provides up-to-date information about the problem of human trafficking in Albania and how to identify and prevent human trafficking.
When somebody contacts the free hotline—via the app or any mobile phone or landline—and reports a trafficking case/suspected trafficking case, the call will go to the operative office in the General Police Department, who will immediately send officers to respond per Albania's Standard Operating Procedures put in place to combat trafficking in 2011.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery exploiting children, youth, women, and men. It’s often hidden in plain sight. But it’s also a crime that can be stopped when ordinary people learn what to look out for and have a means to report it,” Padget continued. "The app's knowledge center will help educate Albanians about the problem of human trafficking and what they need to look out for—both to identify potential victims and to protect themselves, their families, and their communities."
NetHope, Inc., is a consortium of more than 40 leading humanitarian organizations. NetHope collaborates with consortium members and facilitates public-private partnerships with major technology companies to leverage technology investments and better serve aid beneficiaries. World Vision is a member of NetHope. USAID funds NetHope's cTIP Program and the Global Broadband and Innovations (GBI) Alliance. The cTIP Program falls under the GBI. For more information, please visit http://solutionscenter.nethope.org/communities/gbi-connectivity.
About World Vision
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.WorldVision.org/press.
USAID is a leading U.S. Government agency responsible for U.S. foreign development assistance. USAID works in approximately 100 countries around the world delivering humanitarian assistance, supporting social sector improvements, and facilitating economic development. USAID funds NetHope's cTIP Program. For more information, please visit www.usaid.gov.