2010 | Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers

The focus of this chapter is on the character and effects of the situation that Albanian women face on returning home from trafficking and sexual exploitation abroad, and the retrafficking risks this situation incurs. The present chapter relies on predominantly qualitative analysis based on open sources, plus research interviews conducted in autumn 2008 with stake-holders of Albania’s pronounced anti-trafficking fight. These interviews were conducted in preparation for a cross-examination by the UK immigration tribunal, and for an expert witness report in a ‘country-guidance case’9 on the return situation of adult female Albanian victims of trafficking. The research was guided by and sought to address three contested observations among national and international stakeholders (Lesko and Puka 2008: 6–8; Republic of Albania 2008a; US Department of State 2008a). The first was that failed and returned Albanian asylum seekers who have been trafficked are highly likely to follow repeat trafficking patterns. Second, internal trafficking has been increasing significantly in recent years and thus poses an additional risk to this category of returnees. And finally, many of them would re-engage in prostitution ‘both willingly and voluntarily’, particularly if they are beyond the traffickers’ priority target groups of very young women and children. Given these observations, the question of free choice of Albanian sex workers versus the nature of socioculturally restrictive circumstances in Albania, which would frame such ‘choice’, has become paramount in the ongoing country guidance case (in early 2009).