Kosovo is a source, destination and transit country for trafficking of women and children, a recently released US State Department report said. Although the government has made some effort to combat human trafficking, it has failed to comply with minimum standards, while serious institutional gaps remain, the report concludes.
Many trafficking victims are forced into prostitution, the primary source countries being Albania, Moldova, Poland, and Serbia. But increasingly, Kosovo women and children are subjected to forced prostitution at home as well as abroad.
In addition to the human toll, trafficking challenges the rule of law, government institutions, and the fight against corruption.
According to FOL Movement Executive Director Ramadan Ilazi, ties between organised crime and law enforcement are the reason why anti-trafficking efforts are inefficient.
"We have had cases when high ranking officers of these agencies have been found co-operating or being involved in corruption," he told SETimes.
Ilazi added that the net result has been lack of trust in public institutions throughout the Balkans. "It would be difficult to find people to testify if they do not trust the institutions," he said.
The report acknowledges some progress in tackling the ties between government institutions and organised crime, but points to legal deficiencies and problems with the resolution of cases in the judiciary.
"Prosecution proceedings continued against four border police and one municipal official for involvement in trafficking. The government, however, reported no convictions or sentencing of government officials complicit in human trafficking," the report said.
On a positive note, the report notes government efforts to address trafficking.
"The government elevated its anti-trafficking police section to directorate status and more than tripled the number of anti-trafficking investigations. It identified more trafficking victims than in prior years and offered a comprehensive range of government-funded services to those victims. All certified victims of trafficking participated in criminal investigations this year," it said.
The government issued a statement saying it has made the fight against human trafficking a priority.
"[It] is being given special attention through the implementation of the national Strategy and the Action Plan 2008-2011 against human trafficking co-ordinated by the ministry," Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi said.
He explained the government efforts have shown positive results compared to previous years. Police operations were conducted throughout Kosovo in 2010 -- which was not the case in 2009 -- and municipal and tax inspectorates co-operated in the investigations.
The ministry also organised awareness campaigns against trafficking of human beings.
Still, organised crime threatens Kosovo institutions and regional stability, requiring concerted co-operation with other states and international institutions.
"Having in mind that organised crime is a regional issue and that we have criminal organisations that bypass the borders of the country and the ethnic obstacles, then, this problem should be seen not through politics, but from perspective and reality on the ground," Ilazi concluded.