Vebi Kosumi is an author and an international lawyer holding a Master of Laws (LLM) in International Law with International Relations from the University of Kent, the UK and a Law Degree (LLB) from the University of Prishtina, Kosovo. He is an international legal expert, author, and prominent leader in the international human rights movement. As the former Director of the Dover Detainee Visitor Group (Now Samphire) he led the support efforts to improve asylum seekers’ treatment, working across the UK to raise awareness in the community and Albanians to the UK. Before serving as a Team Leader of Hestia – Modern Slavery Response Team (Anti-Human Trafficking) in Kent in 2017, he volunteered with the British Red Cross and Save the Children (London).
Vebi is an independent and accredited Expert by the Academy of Experts. He is a trustee of Music in Detention since 2006, board member of Kent Coast Volunteering (Connecting Communities in Dover, Thanet, Folkestone & Hythe). He was a trustee of the Asylum Aid (2013-2020) and the Migrant Resource Centre (changed name to Consonant), 2016-2020. Vebi has written over 100 reports addressing the human rights issues of individuals. Covering countries: Albania, Kosovo, and North Macedonia. Fluent in Albanian, Serbian, and English languages.
Vebi has published a book: Can Crimea Claim Secession and Accession to Russian Federation in Light of Kosovo’s Independence? . He has been published in the academic journal: Can the European Union Resolve the Life-Cycle of the Conflict in Kosovo? (Volume II, Issue 1 (2014) | Queen’s Political Review)
Vebi was one of the speakers of the Detention Forum at the UK Parliamentary meeting concerning vulnerable and at-risk adults of immigration detention. He was prominently featured in BBC TV Southeast, BBC Radio Kent live, the Guardian, NY Elite Magazine, ALB UK TV, Bota Sot and Freedom Radio in Austria, just to mention a few.
Human trafficking/Modern slavery of Albanians to the UK.
Who are the traffickers and their Albanian victims that are used as a modern slave and trafficked in the United Kingdom (UK)?
Prior to speaking about the trans-European human and trafficking mafia, one needs to give Albanians an overall picture in the UK. Albanians from Kosova started to come to the UK in the 1980s and 1900s. In 1991 an estimated 300-400 Albanians were living in the UK, mainly working illegally. Only around 5 per cent were Albanians from Albania. In 2019, the Office for National Statistics estimated that 47,000 people born in Albania and 29,000 people born in Kosovo were resident in the UK. However, the statistics do not include the Albanians from Kosova and Albania that have become British Citizens. It is estimated that in the UK there are at least 200,000 Albanians from Kosova and Albania. There are more Albanians from Albania as at the end of the 1990s and beginning of 2000s, many Albanians from Albania arrived in the UK claiming to escape the war.
The Albanian community of first-generation and second-generation, which include children born or who arrived in the UK at a young age in a short period of 2-3 decades, have achieved to produce professionals that have become professors, doctors, engineers, councillors and many other respectful professions. One must mention only Dua Lipa and Rita Ora, and both immigrated with their families when they were a baby. Then there are imported Swiss-Albanians such as Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Albanian culture and mentality are to hide the shame under the carpet and pretend that it does not exist. While almost all Albanians are respectful of laws and the new culture, there is a tiny group that commits severe crimes in the UK. What is worse than Albanian mafia members who have obtained assets with criminal activity such as human trafficking and narcotics trafficking go to Albania and speak to youngsters about dream life in the UK and manipulate or coerce them to trafficking.
The Guardian article published in 2017 with title ‘Albanian gangs have significant control over UK cocaine market, says crime agency’ writes:
‘The NCA said British and Romanian gangs were the most prevalent offenders in human trafficking, with eastern Europe the most cited wider region of origin involved.’
Throughout my research, I have come to the conclusion that the Albanian criminal gangs are mainly involved with human trafficking/modern slavery of Albanians. However, there is sometimes involvement of Romanian criminal gangs and other East European traffickers.
On 27 September 2019, the British National Crime Agency reports the Albanians’ international arrests who organised a criminal group in three countries. Two Albanians men have been arrested in the United Kingdom under European arrests warrants, 12 in Belgium and one held in Germany. The men are charged with smuggling people in the United Kingdom in the back of the lorries. They charged 15,000 euros for each smuggled migrant. In October 2020, Birmingham Crown Court sentenced an Albanian 44-year-old woman, Ms Pranvera Smith, to five years imprisonment and her partner 47-year-old man, Mr Flamur Daka, was jailed for four years. Ms Smith founded a charity, ‘Freedom to Stay’, in 2014 and, using her connection via Albanian gangs, trafficked Albanians to the UK and profited 2000 pounds for a person to collect benefits in the UK. Many immigrants that received services from Ms Smith worked in car washes and cannabis farms.
In January 2019, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advertised for a post of Projects Officer – Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking, based in Tirana. Key responsibilities, alongside others, for the post, are: Lead on identification, design and development of Modern Slavery Unit-led programme, procuring and engaging with partners and implementers, and working closely with x-HMG colleagues on cross-cutting activity, e.g. stakeholder engagement; Close coordination with Political and Justice and Home Affairs Teams to ensure policy input to concrete project design. The British Government would not have to invest in the posts to deal with modern slavery in Albania if its Government was so competent, providing the service to potential victims and the victims of human trafficking. The Home Office announced in October 2018 to provide two million pounds to Albania to combat human trafficking. The promise of funding shows that Albania is not providing the right service for the victims of trafficking.
Who are most trafficked Albanians children or adults to the UK?
Potential victims of trafficking/modern slavery from Albania have topped the list for numbers of claims in the UK from 2013 to 2018. Statistics provided by the National Crime Agency on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking: National Referral Mechanism (NRM) Statistics Annual Report are as follows: In 2013, 268 Albanians potential victims were referred to the NRM, topping the list of all countries. In 2014, 449 Albanians were referred; in 2015, 600 Albanians were referred. From European countries, only Romania takes the top five places for claims of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking from 2013 to 2017.
The statistics show that there is a high number of Albanian unaccompanied asylum seekers children in the United Kingdom from 2013 to 2018 as provided in the table below, sourced from the Home Office statistics and published by Refugee Council in May 2019
The figures show that the number of Albanian adults claiming to have been used in human trafficking (mainly in sex-industry and narcotics trade) is much higher than all the asylum claims of teenage Albanians. Not all young under age Albanians that claim asylum in the UK claim to have been trafficked and used in modern slavery.
What benefits do Albanians have from trafficking?
Human trafficking is the most lucrative trade after the narcotics trade in the world. Top Albanians involved in horrific crimes become very rich. However, the dark side of medal that Albanians top the list of foreign nationals in The UK prisons.
The Albanians criminals not only operate in Albania, but however, figures released also show that Albanian nationals in the United Kingdom top the list of foreign nationals in prison. The statistics show that although there are much fewer Albanians who are in the UK in comparison to other nationalities such as Polish, Romanian and Irish, they top the list being imprisoned. It is a fact that there is a high percentage of Albanians in prison for mainly committing narcotics and human trafficking crimes; however, drug dealing and human trafficking are intertwined. Individuals who are provided service of trafficking or smuggling in the United Kingdom, if they are not able to pay for the service, would have to pay by providing criminal service to Mafia Shqiptare. The briefing paper prepared for the House of Commons on 23 July 2019 shows that Albanians top ten foreign prisoners list as recorded on 31 March 2018. The list is topped by three European Nationalities: Albanian 802 prisoners Polish 791 and Romanian 723. The table below taken from the briefing shows the top ten nationalities in prison for England and Wales:
The top Albanian criminals who are not imprisoned by the British Criminal System transfer the money in Albania. They invest in buildings, hotels, restaurant and anywhere possible. The Albanian criminals in the UK usually are uneducated and cannot achieve much in competitive country where skills, education, and intelligence are prioritised.
Which are the reasons that Albanians accept to be slaves in foreign countries?
The young Albanians in Albania are manipulated and promised the dreamland. The human traffickers who have become rich for a short period of time in the UK go to Albania with Range Rovers and very expensive cars presenting to poor young men and women a dream life in the UK. To arrive in the UK, an Albanian must spend up to 15,000 pounds sterling to pay the traffickers for the British dream and arrive in the UK illegally, usually in the back of the lorry. Once they come to the UK, the traffickers demand that money owed is returned. The illegal immigrant would work in the building industry or car washes, and that would not be enough to pay the debt. The human traffickers then offer a job that would pay the debt faster, and that would be working as a delivery courier of narcotics. Women are shown to work in prostitution. In some cases, the traffickers, as soon they have brought the victim to the UK they have abducted the victim and forcefully make them work in car washes, narcotics trade and the sex industry.
How the trafficking of Albanians has changed over the years?
Due to globalisation, the trafficking has changed drastically as the Albanians now can travel freely in Schengen Treaty countries. Furthermore, the traffickers use social media showing large amounts of money, expensive cars, and dream life. There is even advertised trafficking life in social media that the transfer from Belgium or France would commence soon.
In October 2019, 39 Vietnamese have been found dead in a lorry in Essex (The UK) that arrived from Belgium. The three individuals that smuggled the victims were sentenced to 39 years, 18 years and 13 years in prison in January 2021.
What about now? Do we actually have a really “modern” slavery? Some reasons of this “modern” slavery.
Modern slavery exists when an individual is: forced to work through mental or physical threat, owned or controlled by an ’employer’, usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse, dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’
physically constrained or have restrictions placed on his/her freedom.
For example, in Canterbury, the UK, in 2016 and Albanian citizens were arrested as he kept his employees in inhumane, degrading accommodation, confiscated their passports and made them work with little pay.
What can we do to stop trafficking? Some articles of criminal law that stop trafficking, imprisonment sentences and other penalties.
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings is accepted by signed and ratified by all 47 members of the Council of Europe except for the Russian Federation. The Treaty was open for signatures on 16 May 2015. The United Kingdom has introduced its own legislation of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 that enables to prosecute and sentence the human traffickers.
Date: 19 February 2021