Albanian street children’s plight recognized by study

22 Feb 2008 13:09:20 GMT

<!– 22 Feb 2008 13:09:20 GMT ## for search indexer, do not remove –>

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author’s alone.

<!– World Vision Middle East/Eastern Europe office (MEERO) –>

Albanian girl begging in the streets of the capital city Tirana
Albanian girl begging in the streets of the capital city Tirana
World Vision MEERO,

Some 293 of the estimated 800 children who work on the streets of Albania’s capital Tirana, according to the Child’s Rights Centre in Albania, realized their plight is not forgotten as they participated in a quantitative research study recently conducted by World Vision.

The study was part of World Vision’s Children in Crisis Laboratory of Learning global initiative implemented with the help of both John Hopkins and Tulane University in the United States.

‘The study shows Albania’s, street children face lots of challenges, so there is great need for help,’ said Dr. Paul Bolton, of John Hopkins University.

‘It has also helped bring to light the prevalence of economic challenges street children face within their homes as well as the widespread harassment and abuse they receive from the wider community,’ said Tonya Renee Thurman, MPH, PhD of Tulane University.

While working and living on the streets these children are exposed to harsh environmental elements (cold and rain) and psychosocial and physical violence. Based on World Vision’s quantitative study, 80% of the children reported to have experienced physical abuse on the street.’

‘Whether they are working or begging on the street we know that these children are exploited and internally trafficked. In some cases they are trafficked for forced labor outside of Albania,’ said Blerta Petrela World Vision Albania’s Child Protection Manager.

Of the street children interviewed, 94% were boys between 10 to 14 years old, and as many as half of them started to work before the age of 10. Some children belonged to ethnic minority groups such as Roma and Egyptian, while others were non-minority Albanian. In many cases the reasons the children are on the street were the same, regardless of whether or not they were a from minority group.

Family poverty is one of the main conditions that result in children begging or working on the street. Many of them labor an average of seven hours a day and others as much as 18 hours, with most of their earnings given to their families. More than 80% of street children work mostly during the day, hence school drop out is high among them. However, most of the children interviewed during the quantitative study reported that if they could they would be happy to attend school.

World Vision is in the process of developing holistic programs to address the needs of street children in Albania. The Children in Crisis Laboratory of Learning global initiative is enabling staff to have a better understanding of problems affecting street children, resulting in the design and implementation of locally appropriate interventions. Later, the impact of the interventions will be measured to identify best practices in the area.

‘World Vision works with the most vulnerable populations, focusing on alleviating their immediate needs as well as the root causes of their poverty. While children in crisis are a ‘symptom’ of more fundamental issues, responding to this group is an imperative driven by our fundamental commitment to the most vulnerable,’ said Brett Gresham, World Vision’s regional director for strategic development, Middle East and Eastern Europe.

World Vision is working with civil society organizations and partner NGOs to advocate and lobby the Albanian government to start implementing child rights policies and legislation. World Vision has been organizing trainings with parents, children, teachers and communities where it operates to raise awareness on issues of child’s rights and child protection.

World Vision is also a member of the BKTF network, a network of local and international NGOs in Albania that works against child exploitation, trafficking and abuse. In the summer of 2007, World Vision, along with Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Save the Children and Terre des Hommes, financed an anti-begging national campaign.

<!– aidnews ## for search indexer, do not remove –>

[ Any views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not of Reuters. ]


Street children remain a common sight in Greece

 Street children remain a common sight in Greece
Posted : Sun, 28 Oct 2007 02:09:03 GMT
Author : DPA

Athens – Carrying a bag full of lighters, key chains and other trinkets, 11-year-old Marenella walks through the cafe-lined streets of Monastiraki Square in central Athens selling her wares. Rain or shine, Marenella can be seen touting her goods to locals and tourists in the hope of meeting the daily quota enforced by her mother who waits in the shadows nearby.

Two streets away, Iliana, 10, and her younger sister Christina roam from one table to another in a bid to sell flowers and tissues.

"I went to school today and I am sent out every afternoon to help bring in money. My sister is always with me and together we help support our younger brothers and sisters," says Iliana.

Iliana is one of thousands of children from Albania and other Balkan countries who are forced to beg or sell trinkets every day at cafes and restaurants across Athens and in other major Greek cities.

Until a few years ago, thousands of children were being smuggled into the country by trafficking gangs from the poorer northern neighbours to work the streets as beggars and prostitutes until a government crackdown.

"What we are seeing is that police and the government have cracked down on the networks of organized crime involving child-trafficking in recent years but we now have a new phenomenon of families from these countries coming in and exploiting the children by making them work the streets," said Arsis, director for the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, Nikos Gavalas.

According to Arsis, a non-governmental association which works closely with Hellenic Aid and Swiss-based Terres des Hommes to protect street children and to combat child labour and trafficking, up to 150,000 children of immigrants, refugees and Roma families are often forced into child labour in Greece.

The children, often as young as 3 or 4, normally work in the afternoon hours or on weekends with the consent of their parents after school has ended for the day.

"We try to come in contact with the children we see begging or working on the streets – gain their trust which could take months – and try to determine whether they are accompanied by a family member or go to school to establish if it is a trafficking case," said Elda, a sociologist with Arsis.

"If we believe that it is a trafficking case we go to the authorities. If the youngsters are indeed accompanied by their family, then we try to work with the parents to ensure that the children get off the streets and go to school."

"The parents know that we do not want children working in the streets, so it is not always possible to establish good relations with them," says Elda as she approaches a child trying to beg money off a tourist in Monastiraki.

For years, Greece faced international criticism for failing to tackle powerful trafficking rings, who also smuggle drugs and guns across the Balkans. Measures by non-governmental organizations and various governments reduced the phenomenon in recent years.

In 2006, Greece and Albania signed a bilateral agreement with the aim of protecting and assisting Albanian children trafficked in and to Greece, as well as trying to prevent the trafficking of children in Albania.

"What we are seeing is fewer cases of trafficked children but more and more cases of families from Albania, and just recently more from Romania and Bulgaria because of the opening of their borders, coming to Greece and forcing their children to work or beg," says Arsis director in Athens, Katerina Koutou.

Although Greek law stipulates that children under the age of 16 are not permitted to work, there is no proper legal framework in place that punishes parents of exploited children.

"The parents are taken to court and given a small fine but the court cannot prosecute them. They simply pay the fine off … what is it to them? Their children make it up by working just one day from morning to night," says Gavalas.

THE WORD ON THE STREETS Loving the cast-off children of Albania

THE WORD ON THE STREETS Loving the cast-off children of Albania
By Andre van der Bergh

It all started with a bag of bananas. Late one evening last February, one of our friends went on an outreach to sailors in the port area of Durr�s, Albania. While sharing the gospel on an Indian ship, one of the crew gave him a bag of bananas. My friend tried to refuse it. What would he do with a whole bag of bananas? But the Indian insisted and gave it to him when he left the ship. While walking through the port, his eyes fell on a group of children sitting between containers. He went over to them and gave them the bananas. Much to his surprise, more and more children came out from behind the containers. He asked them what they were all doing there at 11 at night, and then started to hear their stories. There and then he caught the vision to open a centre for street children, in Durr�s. We have been running the centre now for nine months, and God has been blessing us richly. We rented a house in the centre of the city and about fifty children come three times a week to receive a warm meal, clothes…and stories of Jesus. Some of the children also sleep at the centre during the night, but unfortunately we cannot accommodate all who would like to come. We would like to see this ministry grow and are looking at buying a piece of ground to build a centre. Let me tell you about the children. About 70% are gypsies, and their ages range between 5 and 17. Most of them have never learned to read and write although they can write their names. The kids sleep between containers in the port area, in the open air. In the winter they huddle up against each other for warmth. Some of the children were sold to child traffickers for sexual exploitation, but they ran away to try to make a living on the street. Others have had some of their organs cut out for sale on the black market, to organ clinics in Italy. A kidney goes for 1500 Euros. The system provides an easy way for the parents to get their hands on money. Because of fear of their parents, these children run away and turn for help at our centre. Some of the girls are sold into prostitution. One, Senada, was left on the streets when she was 6 years old. She is now 14, and we have just found out she is pregnant. During the day you can see these children on the streets, begging and receiving the kicks and curses of people passing by. We thank the Lord that we can show them God’s love and grace. The word on the streets of Durr�s is that there is a place for street kids to go, where they can be loved. More and more new children are coming to us daily. Only one other centre of its kind exists in Albania. Our vision is to see a new facility built as soon as possible, for the place we have at the moment is inadequate. We want to train these children to read and write. We want to teach the older ones a specific trade like sewing, hairdressing, carpentry and running a small business. Each day we are dealing with different trauma cases. Some of the children are being sexually abused by their family members, others were thrown out in the street and told never to return to their families. We also have orphans with no one to take care of them. Some kids also have medical problems that need attention, like Mariglen, a 14-year-old with no bladder control. Sometimes as he stands talking to me or others he wets himself. The disorder makes him smell and no one wants to go near him. We have taken the boy for tests and it seems that this is a medical as well as a psychological problem. We also have children who have had one or both legs cut off. This atrocity is mostly done by parents, who then drop them in a busy road so passers-by will throw money at them. Some of their wounds are bleeding continuously and they need medical help. We love these children so much, and we know that God can change their lives and give them hope. Every Wednesday my wife, Lidy, and I hold a kids’ club for them. They are always so eager to hear about Jesus and to learn new memory verses. Some of them have received Jesus as their Saviour and we can already see a change in them. They now understand that they are not alone. They have a Father taking care of them. Will you please keep us and the centre in your prayers? Ask God with us for land and funds. For more info on the centre and our ministry, please feel free to contact us at

CRCA Issues New Report on Child Labour and Street Children in Albania

CRCA Issues New Report on Child Labour and Street Children in Albania
24 February 2006

The Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania – CRCA, a major child-rights organisation in the country, issued today its latest report on the situation of child labour and street children. This is the very first in-depth research-report published by a national organisation in Albania, on the situation of the rights of child labourers and street children in Albania. The research is funded by Palme Center and SIDA Sweden, as part of the programme ‘The Rights of the Child a Democratic Right’.

"Today we have issued our report on child labour and street children in Albania”, said Altin Hazizaj, Director of CRCA and one of the authors of the research, “and I have to say that the situation is far more serious then previously thought by us. In the next few days we will make public our requests towards the Albanian authorities, especially Ministry of Labour, which for so many years has left without protection thousands of children throughout Albania, which have fallen victims of economical exploitation."

CRCA is one of the few organisations in Albania that works for the elimination of child labour and other forms of labour among children. The main interventions of CRCA on child labour and street children include: Children’s Clubs, Public Campaign ‘Stop Child Labour’, policy and legislative improvement and capacity building for the authorities and NGO’s to work for the elimination of child labour.

The research "Child Labour and Street Children in Albania" is a quantitative and qualitative one. The research brings to the intention of the Government several new concepts and definitions of child labour and street children for Albania. It analyses the issue of economical exploitation of children, the reasons why, and consequences of labour to children. Because of the lack of referral mechanisms, the research is focused also on the role that state authorities can play and how the referral mechanisms may work. Finally the report provides a list of conclusions and recommendations for the Albanian authorities and civil society.

The report at the present is available only in Albanian, and in the next few days will be released in English. It will be made available on line in both languages very soon. If you wish to receive an electronic version of this research-report contact with CRCA.

For more info, or to receive an electronic copy, please contact: Alma Kordoni (Maksutaj), Programme Coordinator ‘Stop Child Labour in Albania’; Phone / Fax: + 355 4 242264; E-mail: