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Traders in People Prey on Refugees Stuck in Albania

May 24, 1999|CAROL J. WILLIAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sadako Ogata, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, warned in testimony before the Security Council this month that "human traffickers are a serious threat, especially in Albania," where young women have already been forced into prostitution and children are also among the victims.

"This phenomenon will increase if it is not addressed more forcefully and immediately," she told the council, acknowledging that security is lax at many camps.

Meanwhile, the refugee agency has been pressuring Kosovo Albanians massed in Kukes to move to southern regions of Albania where the proximity to ports means better access to food and shelter.

But those same outlets to the sea present their own dangers for the refugees because traffickers can quickly dispatch their human cargoes to the pernicious traders across the water.

"We don't walk around the camp alone anymore, even in daylight," says 17-year-old Nazone Mikolovci, one of 2,000 unhappy residents at the State Reservists Camp.

"We don't know what happened to the girls that disappeared, but we can assume it is something very bad."

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