Albanian boys and young men: the risk of trafficking and re-trafficking on return

Tuesday 11 June 2019

This Garden Court Chambers paper addresses the situation of Albanian boys and young men who claim asylum on the basis that they face a risk of trafficking or re-trafficking on return to Albania. 

This paper is provided for information and training purposes and is not legal advice. Those affected by the issues raised in this paper should seek legal advice from a solicitor, barrister or OISC adviser who specialises in the relevant area of law.

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This paper was revised on 5 July 2019. 

1. Albanian boys and young men face a difficult time in the UK asylum system. Increasing numbers of Albanian asylum claims are now certified as “clearly unfounded” under section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, as discussed in our recent joint paper with Islington Law Centre. [1]  

2. Until recently, there was very little available research or guidance about boys and young men who are trafficked. Both of the Upper Tribunal country guidance determinations focus exclusively on women and girls, as does most of the published material. However, a new report published in May 2019 by Asylos and Asylum Research Centre (“the Asylos report”) provides significant new evidence about trafficked boys and young men in Albania. The Asylos report is essential reading for practitioners representing Albanian boys and young men – not just those who have been trafficked.

3. This paper argues that in light of the Asylos report, many Albanian boys and young men who have been trafficked should be recognised as refugees. It also argues that boys and young men who have not been trafficked, but who come from poor backgrounds, are victims of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse, lack family support, and are highly vulnerable, may well be at elevated risk of trafficking on return to Albania and that this too should be recognised as giving rise to an asylum claim. Thus even those whose asylum claims do not directly concern trafficking – for example, those who claim asylum on the basis of domestic violence – may in fact be at risk of trafficking. 

The existing guidance on trafficking

4. The current country guidance on trafficked women and girls is TD and AD (Trafficked women) CG [2016] UKUT 92 (IAC) The country guidance given in that case reads:

a) It is not possible to set out a typical profile of trafficked women from Albania: trafficked women come from all areas of the country and from varied social backgrounds.
b) Much of Albanian society is governed by a strict code of honour which not only means that trafficked women would have very considerable difficulty in reintegrating into their home areas on return but also will affect their ability to relocate internally. Those who have children outside marriage are particularly vulnerable. In extreme cases the close relatives of the trafficked woman may refuse to have the trafficked woman's child return with her and could force her to abandon the child.
c) Some women are lured to leave Albania with false promises of relationships or work. Others may seek out traffickers in order to facilitate their departure from Albania and their establishment in prostitution abroad. Although such women cannot be said to have left Albania against their will, where they have fallen under the control of traffickers for the purpose of exploitation there is likely to be considerable violence within the relationships and a lack of freedom: such women are victims of trafficking.
d) In the past few years the Albanian government has made significant efforts to improve its response to trafficking. This includes widening the scope of legislation, publishing the Standard Operating Procedures, implementing an effective National Referral Mechanism, appointing a new Anti-trafficking Co-ordinator, and providing training to law enforcement officials. There is in general a Horvath-standard sufficiency of protection, but it will not be effective in every case. When considering whether or not there is a sufficiency of protection for a victim of trafficking her particular circumstances must be considered.
e) There is now in place a reception and reintegration programme for victims of trafficking. Returning victims of trafficking are able to stay in a shelter on arrival, and in 'heavy cases' may be able to stay there for up to 2 years. During this initial period after return victims of trafficking are supported and protected. Unless the individual has particular vulnerabilities such as physical or mental health issues, this option cannot generally be said to be unreasonable; whether it is must be determined on a case by case basis.
f) Once asked to leave the shelter a victim of trafficking can live on her own. In doing so she will face significant challenges including, but not limited to, stigma, isolation, financial hardship and uncertainty, a sense of physical insecurity and the subjective fear of being found either by their families or former traffickers. Some women will have the capacity to negotiate these challenges without undue hardship. There will however be victims of trafficking with characteristics, such as mental illness or psychological scarring, for whom living alone in these circumstances would not be reasonable. Whether a particular appellant falls into that category will call for a careful assessment of all the circumstances.
g) Re-trafficking is a reality. Whether that risk exists for an individual claimant will turn in part on the factors that led to the initial trafficking, and on her personal circumstances, including her background, age, and her willingness and ability to seek help from the authorities. For a proportion of victims of trafficking, their situations may mean that they are especially vulnerable to re-trafficking, or being forced into other exploitative situations.
h) Trafficked women from Albania may well be members of a particular social group on that account alone. Whether they are at risk of persecution on account of such membership and whether they will be able to access sufficiency of protection from the authorities will depend upon their individual circumstances including but not limited to the following:

1)      The social status and economic standing of her family
b)      The level of education of the victim of trafficking or her family
c)      The victim of trafficking's state of health, particularly her mental health
d)      The presence of an illegitimate child
e)      The area of origin
f)       Age
g)      What support network will be available.


5. TD and AD must be read together with its predecessor country guidance, AM and BM (Trafficked women) Albania CG [2010] UKUT 80 (IAC), much of which remains current.

6. It can be seen that the Upper Tribunal has recognised that some (female) victims of trafficking are vulnerable to re-trafficking and may not enjoy a sufficiency of protection, having regard to the list of risk factors. One much-discussed issue has been the extent to which this guidance is also applicable to trafficked boys and young men. It is centred on the position of women. Until the Asylos report was recently published, there was little evidence available about the experiences of trafficked boys and young men. 

Which boys and young men are vulnerable to trafficking?

7. The Asylos report sheds significant light on the question of which boys and young men are most vulnerable to trafficking (all page references in the following paragraphs are to the Asylos report):

a.  The Asylos report supports the view that the risk factors for Albanian boys and young men being trafficked include poverty, low education, suffering from physical or mental disabilities, domestic violence and/or sexual abuse within the family or a pre-existing blood feud, being LGBT and for children, being Roma or Egyptian or homeless (Dr Edlira Haxhiymeri and Caritas, p. 16)

b. Different and Equal outlined that the majority of young male victims of trafficking they have assisted came from unstable or abusive family backgrounds. In some cases, the unstable family background led to homelessness, which frequently led ‘quite directly’ to being trafficked (Different and Equal, p. 20). Research conducted by the University of Bedfordshire also identified family breakdown as a risk factor (p. 21).

c. Poverty, unemployment and economic vulnerability are also key risk factors (Different and Equal, University of Bedfordshire and Children’s Society, pp. 21-24), as are limited education and physical and mental disabilities (Different and Equal, Children’s Society and Dr Schwandner-Sievers, pp. 24-26). Criminal groups “identify the most vulnerable boys those that have no family support - those that are in immediate need to make some sort of living” (Dr Edlira Haxhiymeri, p. 36).

d. Dr Schwandner-Sievers also took the view that geographical/topographical and social issues are a factor, and that patriarchal attitudes are a factor in that young men are expected to be providers for their families. 

“… [P]eople from disadvantaged backgrounds in Albania would also be the ones who don’t have the right connections for building a future and who are maybe not in the capital or from larger cities but more in the peripheries. So I think there are geographical/topographical and social issues, which go into this picture. We know there are minority issues; this again is related to poverty, but I don’t know whether it’s fair to say “low education,” it’s more like lack of access to education. Already, I would like to chip in and say from an anthropological point of view, what’s really important to understand is how hopeless it can feel for the younger generation, and also entire families, in terms of making a living and having a good future where you can found your own family, have an income, and provide, which is also very much a traditional role model, it’s very patriarchal there for young men. So if you can’t see any other way but to migrate or a criminal path to become a successful provider, what are you going to do when everyone expects you to become a provider for your family. So it’s really access or chances to good avenues of building a basic decent future.” (Dr Schwandner-Sievers, p. 32)

8. Thus, the evidence gathered by Asylos suggests that boys and young men who are from poor backgrounds (especially in remote and rural parts of Albania), who are victims of domestic abuse and/or come from broken families, and/or who have physical and mental disabilities are all at particular risk of trafficking. Factors such as being LGBT and being from an ethnic minority are also relevant. The report also contains valuable information (see pp. 37-47) about the methods typically used by traffickers to recruit their victims. 

9. This is of significance not just for boys and young men who have already been trafficked. If a young man who is a survivor of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse, who is from a poor and/or rural background, and is traumatised and/or has other disabilities is returned to Albania on his own, the report can be used to support an argument that he is likely to be vulnerable to trafficking. 

10. It is significant that disability is identified as a risk factor. In this regard, it is important to be aware that current and former unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are a group who are at very high risk of mental health problems and vulnerabilities. As Given-Wilson et al state:

“Asylum seeking minors have heightened risk of developing mental health problems due to the stressors they have been exposed to in their home country (i.e. war, disruption to community life, witnessing deaths), in transit (i.e. sexual exploitation, separation from caregivers, illness) and upon arrival (i.e. uncertainty of refugee status, discrimination, low social support) (Derluyn & Broekaert, 2008; Fazel, Reed, Panter-Brick, & Stein, 2012). In addition a sustained lack of any parental figure further increases these young peoples’ vulnerability to mental health problems… For example, one study suggests that unaccompanied minors are five times more likely to have emotional difficulties than those who are accompanied by a caregiver… A review found that PTSD was ten times higher amongst asylum seeking youth than non-asylum seeking peers and prevalence of depression ranges from 5-30% and anxiety 10-30%, again higher in less settled populations.. However, often these adolescents’ difficulties are not detected due to lack of access to treatment, reluctance to seek help due to stigma or believing it would not help, or reporting somatic rather than psychological symptoms.” [2]

11. Even if a young person has not sought medical help or recognised themselves as having mental health problems, this does not mean that they do not have unidentified vulnerabilities. Indeed the Asylos report identifies cultural factors which may be relevant here. James Simmonds-Read stated:

“Of every nationality I’ve worked with and having specialised in trafficking for the past five years, Albanian males are the most difficult I’ve worked with in terms of disclosure. In terms of trusting professionals there’s a really deeply held belief that you don’t trust professionals, that you keep things to yourselves as individuals, don’t share what you’ve been through with others, even with close friends. This is particularly the case with boys and men and young people I’ve worked with have said so explicitly.” (Asylos report at p. 108) 

Thus lawyers should start from the position that many Albanian boys and young men with histories of trafficking and/or domestic violence are likely to have undisclosed mental health problems, and that these need to be identified and documented for their asylum cases. Such problems are a clear risk factor for trafficking or re-trafficking, as set out above. 

Domestic violence as a risk factor

12. A key issue, often poorly understood by judges and Home Office officials, is that the risks are not necessarily limited to people who have already been trafficked. Often people – not exclusively women and girls, but also boys – claim asylum on the basis that they have suffered domestic violence at the hands of (usually) their fathers and that they fear reprisals if they return home. The Home Office’s position is that in all such cases there will be a sufficiency of protection, following DM (Sufficiency of Protection, PSG, Women, Domestic Violence) Albania CG [2004] UKIAT 00059, and that the claim will be certifiable under section 94. But such a position is far too simplistic.

13. DM addresses the situation of a woman who feared violence at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, and concludes that there would be a sufficiency of protection in such a case. No experts gave live evidence, and the only country evidence referred to is the October 2003 Country Information and Policy Unit (CIPU) report published by the Home Office.

14. That situation cannot necessarily be equated with that of a person who faces violence at the hands of their own family. Albania has a traditional patriarchal culture based on notions of family honour, as clearly set out in Dr Schwandner-Sievers’ evidence in AM and BM at [59]-[60]. At [182] in AM and BM the Tribunal accepted, in respect of women who had been trafficked and faced reprisals from their own families, that “[i]f the victim is at real risk of persecution from her family or her “husband” then there is little evidence that the State would intervene, particularly in the north of the country.” Thus DM cannot be taken to exclude the possibility that a person from a conservative area in the north of the country who is at risk from their own family, having been perceived to violate the norms of family honour, would not be sufficiently protected by the state in their home community. The onus would then shift to whether internal relocation would be both safe and reasonable. 

15. Furthermore, it must be considered what situation a boy or young man in these circumstances would be returning to. A boy or young man from a poor and/or rural background who is a victim of domestic violence, who would have no family support on return, and/or who is suffering from mental and/or physical disabilities, is likely to be at elevated risk of trafficking on return, as is set out at length in the next section of this paper. The fact that he has not already been trafficked does not mean that the risk factors for future trafficking can be ignored. 

What protection is available for boys and young men against trafficking?

16. It should be remembered that the existence of a functioning police force and judicial system is not, legally, determinative of the question of sufficiency of protection. As the Upper Tribunal made clear in AW (sufficiency of protection) Pakistan [2011] UKUT 31 (IAC) “[n]otwithstanding systemic sufficiency of state protection, a claimant may still have a well founded fear of persecution if authorities know or ought to know of circumstances particular to his/her case giving rise to the fear, but are unlikely to provide the additional protection the particular circumstances reasonably require.” It should also be remembered that the analysis should always start with the risks in a person’s home area, even if they would not in fact return to their home area. If they are at risk in their home area and would not enjoy a sufficiency of protection there, the analysis then shifts to internal relocation – not just whether internal relocation is unsafe, but also whether it is unreasonable or unduly harsh. 

17. The Asylos report sheds some significant light on the level of protection available for boys and young men against trafficking and re-trafficking (all page references in the following subparagraphs are to the Asylos report):

a. There is a big gap between the legislation and its implementation in practice (Dr. Edlira Haxhiymeri, p. 77). Dr Schwandner-Sievers stated:

“…it’s the power of those people who actually do have the money and do have the connections. You can’t break through that, so actually it’s too dangerous if you’re on the weaker side in some situations… Weak institutions, I think it’s really important. The significance of having social capital, having connections. Again that explains a lot about your disadvantages if you’re from the back waters in Albania—the periphery of periphery—you just need your connections. And that goes beyond family, often just really whom you’ve gone to school with…” (Dr Schwandner-Sievers, p. 77-78).

b. One issue is that boys and young men may not be identified as trafficking victims. An anonymous source highlighted that:

“[t]here is complete disbelief at the very idea that boys and young men are being trafficked at all and if they are then it’s only really trafficking for the purpose of things like forced begging… There is almost complete denial about the possibility that boys and young men are being trafficked into things like labour exploitation and forced criminality. There really is a deeply held denial that these things are happening and a belief that young men are making it up or that people are doing it willingly- a different viewpoint on young adulthood.” (Anonymous source 3, p. 79) 

Another anonymous source stated:

“There are good legislative grounds to exempt victims but the individuals working in structures responsible for identification either do not know about them or deliberately do not do their job, and boys and young men end in up jail.” (Anonymous source 1, p. 65) Different and Equal has documented cases in which boys who were exploited for the purpose of theft by criminal gangs have themselves been prosecuted and punished (Different and Equal, p. 68). 

c. Different and Equal goes on to state:

“…while trafficked males are increasingly being identified as such, still lagging is the formal identification procedure… Failure to identify men as VoTs is likely also linked to social norms of vulnerability – that men are strong and cannot be victims. The case managers interviewed for this study tell that even in some of the cases assisted some resistance is noted in accepting the fact that they are victims of trafficking or exploitation.” (Different and Equal, p. 97)

d. Dr Haxhiymeri bluntly stated “Most of the time [male trafficking victims] are left alone to face all of the threats from their families, the families of the traffickers, or from the community, so I would say this system doesn’t function." (Dr Edlira Haxhiymeri, p. 80). 

e. The report also highlights that trafficking cases are now dealt with by district courts, and that these courts may not have the proper legal expertise to prosecute these cases (Anonymous source 2, p. 81) and that the victims are not eligible for witness protection (Anonymous source 1, pp. 81-82).

f. Corruption and improper influence in the legal system is a major issue. Dr Schwandner-Sievers stated:

“the only people who get justice are those who have more money and better connections. That means that if you are a vulnerable victim, a really vulnerable trafficking victim, and you’re up against somebody who is a big organized crime boss with lots of money, you have no chance because this person can bribe whomever, and they have the connections too. You are basically excluded from justice, regardless of what is on paper, it happens really subtly. It happens in the way in which certain things are submitted or not, so it’s very difficult to put your hand on where the problem really is because, if you observe, say, a court case, it looks all fabulous, but some of the things may not have been even admitted as evidence or witnesses or what-not. There are also real threats and stuff. So corruption is the big issue of whether somebody can actually have fair access to justice and protection.” (Dr Schwandner-Sievers, p. 82)

The report highlights evidence of police officers and prosecutors taking bribes to botch evidence, dismiss criminal proceedings and create unnecessary delays (Dr Enkeleida Tahiraj and Shpresa Programme, p. 87).

g. There are no shelters for male victims of trafficking, although Different and Equal rents accommodation for male victims (GRETA, p. 150). There appears to be disagreement among Asylos’ sources as to whether Different and Equal provides adequate assistance to male victims, with Dr Haxhiymeri stating that they do not have adequate capacity and an anonymous source stating that they do (p. 153). It appears that these services require a referral from the state social services (Anonymous source 2, p. 155). Boys and young men repatriated to Albania may not be identified as victims (Different and Equal and Anonymous source 3, p. 158), so this raises the question of whether a victim returned to Albania will be identified as such and will receive the assistance available. 

h. It is also unclear whether, even if a male victim of trafficking is able to avail himself of assistance from Different and Equal, this would be effective to protect him against re-trafficking or reprisals from his former traffickers. One source stated that “[u]ntil now I haven’t heard of any problems or any security problem with the males in rented apartments” but added that “the problems are not in the rented apartments but mostly in the daily activity that they do, if they go to school or their place of work, they face difficulties in the street, if they have seen the traffickers and they call the police.” (Anonymous source 2, p. 159) 

i. In that regard, Dr Schwandner-Sievers also highlighted that it is not possible to live anonymously in Albania. She states:

“…you can’t anonymously live in Albania— that is very different from London or from Bristol or any UK city—because it’s such a small country and because also for cultural reasons, the ways in which people situate you socially. You encounter somebody and you meet somebody, and any social contact you make you are defined as a person through where you are from and who your family is… There is no anonymous living such as in Europe’s large cities. What chance do you have to reintegrate into a society, without your family, where everything is reliant on family? Just being given a rented flat in a city without pre-existing social contacts would make you very conspicuous and attract attention and suspicion.” (Asylos report, Dr Schwandner-Sievers, pp. 159-160)

18. The latter observation seems to be consistent with the Upper Tribunal’s recent recognition in BF (Tirana - gay men) Albania CG [2019] UKUT 93 (IAC) at [181] that “a person's whereabouts may become known in Tirana by word of mouth. Albania is a relatively small country and we accept as entirely plausible that a person might be traced via family or other connections being made on enquiry in Tirana.” These factors may well be relevant to whether accessing Different and Equal’s services would meaningfully protect a trafficking victim against a risk of re-trafficking.

19. It should be noted that according to existing evidence, the fact that an Albanian has been recognised as a trafficking victim by the UK NRM does not necessarily mean that they will receive equivalent recognition in Albania. In TD and AD at [71] the evidence of Rachel Mullen-Feroze was that “[t]he VOT must consent to entering the NRM and once she does, it is up to the Albanian authorities whether they recognise her as a PVOT/VOT: they do not automatically accept the decisions of the UK NRM, the Home Office, or the Tribunal.  A Conclusive Grounds decision does not hold any weight, and although the Albanian NRM would not seek to “revoke” recognition by the UK authorities as such, they make up their own minds.” A more recent Home Office Fact Finding Mission report provides further support for this proposition, as set out below. 

20. There is, therefore, evidence in the Asylos report which can be used to support an argument that for a boy or young man who is particularly vulnerable to trafficking or re-trafficking (having regard to the risk factors set out above), there may not be a sufficiency of protection available against that risk. This is wholly consistent with the approach taken to female trafficking victims in TD and AD, where it was acknowledged that state protection would not be effective in every case and that the risk factors must be considered. As set out above, this may be applicable not just to boys and young men who have already been trafficked, but also to those who claimed asylum on another basis but who are particularly vulnerable to trafficking on return, having regard to the risk factors. 

The reliability of the Asylos report

21. The Asylos report should be accorded weight by tribunals. The authors have been up-front and even-handed about their methodology. Two of their key interviewees – Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers and Edlira Haxhiymeri – have previously given evidence and been recognised as experts by the Upper Tribunal in country guidance cases. There is no reason why their views should not be accorded substantial weight. 

22. The use of some anonymous sources should not prevent a tribunal according weight to the report. As the Upper Tribunal held in CM (EM country guidance; disclosure) Zimbabwe CG [2013] UKUT 59 (IAC) at [157], a tribunal “should be free to accept [anonymous] material but will do its best to evaluate by reference to what if anything is known about the source, the circumstances in which information was given and the overall context of the issues it relates to and the rest of the evidence available.” Here, Asylos has clearly set out the background of anonymous sources 1 and 2 making it clear why they are qualified to comment on the subject:

“Anonymous source 1 
A consultant who has been working on anti-trafficking projects, with local and international partners in Albania for more than 10 years. 

Anonymous source 2 
Expert on anti–trafficking, with an academic background in social and juridical work. More than 16 years of service and experience in this field. Initially engaged in working directly with victims of trafficking (in the first years of work) and then from many years holding a managerial position in a non profit organization. Qualified and committed professional, with a wealth of experience in providing trainings, workshops, seminars in anti–trafficking for a variety of audiences inside and outside of the country.”

23. As regards other anonymous evidence, Asylos clearly sets out in its methodology that “[i]f the interviewee wishes certain excerpts to be made anonymous, they will be cited as such in the body of the report and not included in the appended full transcripts.” This seems to strike an appropriate balance between providing sufficient information about the sources and protecting the anonymity of sources where required. Asylos has been entirely transparent about how and why its sources were selected. 

24. Thus this is not a case where, as in AAW (expert evidence - weight) [2015] UKUT 673 (IAC) at [40], a report simply relied on wholly unidentified sources and gave the tribunal no basis on which to assess the reliability of their evidence. On the contrary, the sources of evidence are clearly identified and explained, and the full transcripts of the interviews have been provided. 

The Home Office CPINs

25. The Home Office CPIN “Albania: People trafficking”, published in March 2019, relies heavily on a Home Office Fact Finding Mission report (“the FFM report”) published in February 2018. The CPIN does not advocate a wholesale departure from TD and AD but does argue that the situation has materially improved in some respects. Significantly, it does not have a specific focus on trafficked boys and young men.  

26. Paragraph 2.3.6 of the CPIN claims that the risk of re-trafficking has declined since TD and AD: “Although reports relied on by the UT in TD and AD indicated that 18% of women referred to shelters had been subject to re-trafficking, Different and Equal, and NGO working with victims of trafficking, told the HO FFT in 2017 that the figure is now 4 to 5%.” In fact, the FFM report’s account of the interview with Different and Equal states (FFM report p. 92) that “D&E had had some cases – maybe 4-5% – who had ended up being re-trafficked. These were people who willingly left the programme.” It is clear in context that Different and Equal was referring to the women in its own shelter/reintegration programme, and was not putting forward 4-5% as a global figure for re-trafficking generally. In any case, the CPIN makes explicit at 2.3.7 that it does not propose to depart from the findings in TD and AD as regards risk of re-trafficking. 

27. The CPIN goes on to highlight various respects in which it claims that the government’s response to trafficking has improved since TD and AD. It asserts at paragraph 2.4.10 that “[t]he sources met by the HO FFT indicated that the combined capacity of the various shelters is sufficient to meet the needs of adults.” This appears to be derived from Different and Equal (FFM report p. 92) which states that “[the shelters’] combined capacity is sufficient to address the problem; there is no national capacity problem with regard to accommodation for adults.” But the HO does not acknowledge the fact that, as made clear by the Asylos report, none of these shelters cater to adult males. Nor is there adequate capacity for children; indeed in the FFM report Different and Equal went on to say “foster care for minors is scarce and it can be difficult to find age-appropriate foster care and accommodation for them upon leaving the shelters… Once capacity is hit for children, they are referred to places like orphanages, which aren’t really appropriate.” (FFM report p. 92) Thus, it is important to recognise that many boys and young men will not be able to access a shelter and will not enjoy these benefits. 

28. The CPIN goes on to discuss the improvements in support for those in shelters and leaving shelters. What it says about health care in shelters at 2.4.11 and 11.5.1 appears to be derived from the comments of government sources, namely the National Reception Centre for Victims of Human Trafficking and the Ministry of Health, and cannot be regarded as wholly impartial. In any case it will be of little assistance to boys and young men who cannot access shelters in the first place, as discussed above. 

29. What is said at 2.4.12 of the CPIN about the phases of assistance available, based on a report by the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) published on 3 June 2016, is likewise focused on those who can access shelters. The GRETA report, like the Asylos report, makes clear (at paragraph 106) that there is no shelter for male victims of trafficking. It does recount that eighteen male victims had received assistance from Different and Equal, which includes rented flats and “counselling, legal advice, medical services, vocational training and assistance with job-seeking,” but it provides no detailed analysis about how effective such support is in practice. Three other male victims had received support from Vatra in Vlora [3].  As set out above, the interviewees in the Asylos report disagreed as to the effectiveness of Different and Equal’s provision for male victims (Asylos report, p. 153), and a tribunal should be wary of concluding that these services will insulate young men against re-trafficking. 

30. The FFM report provides further critical evidence as to how the Albanian authorities view UK NRM decisions. An official from the Ministry of the Interior and former police officer is recorded as saying “Large number of potential victims of trafficking in the UK, but this number not recognised in Albania. Too high. More than half were not genuine cases. AT believed they used the story to profit from asylum rights.” (FFM report p. 70) The Director of the National Reception Centre for Victims of Human Trafficking said, in explaining the discrepancy in the recorded numbers of trafficking victims, “here in ALB, we don’t just accept that a person has been a victim of trafficking just because the person declares it. Maybe that is the case in the UK, but it is not here – the person needs to be documented – and that might be the difference. The concrete steps that must be undertaken before a person is a VHT. The ALB legislation says anyone can report to the police if they think a person is a VHT, and after that, a multi-disciplinary group gets together. The database contains all of the information about the person – the initial report; the police report; the papers from the CVHT. So, this is why no self-declaration as a VHT can take place in ALB. Getting proof of a VHT requires this legal requirement.” (FFM report p. 86) These views expressed by official sources suggest that the Albanian authorities view UK NRM decisions with some scepticism. Thus the fact that a boy or young man has been recognised as a victim of trafficking in the UK does not imply that he would be similarly recognised by the Albanian authorities. As set out above, the Asylos report provides evidence that cultural attitudes may lead to a perception that boys and young men are not victims. 

31. Overall, therefore, the CPIN does not significantly undermine the conclusion that some boys and young men – those who are highly vulnerable, have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual abuse, come from poor backgrounds, lack family support, and/or have physical and/or mental disabilities – will be at risk of trafficking or re-trafficking on return and will not have sufficient protection against that risk. 


32. There is a widespread, and wrong, perception among many people working in the immigration system that Albanian boys and young men can typically expect to enjoy a sufficiency of protection against the risks they face on return to Albania. This is not the case. When one reviews the available evidence in detail and with a critical eye, it becomes apparent that many asylum claims by Albanian boys and young men ought to succeed. 

33. Albanian boys and young men who display the risk factors identified above – poverty, a history of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse, lack of family support, physical and/or mental disability, limited education, etc. – may well be at risk of trafficking or re-trafficking, and, depending on their individual circumstances, may not enjoy a sufficiency of protection against that risk. Whether they can relocate internally will likewise depend on their individual circumstances. 

[1] Garden Court Chambers and Islington Law Centre, “A practical response to the surge in certification of asylum claims by Albanian nationals,” 5 June 2019 

[2] Given-Wilson, Z., Herlihy, J. and Hodes, M. (2016) “Telling the story: A psychological review on assessing adolescents’ asylum claims,” Canadian Psychology Special Edition: Refugee  

[3] GRETA, “Report concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by Albania: Second Evaluation Round,” 3 June 2016 

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