Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Commend Albania on Legal and Institutional Reforms, Ask Questions on Children’s Access to Justice and Efforts to Ensure Education for All Children
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Albania under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, commending the State on legal and institutional reforms, while asking questions about children’s access to justice and efforts to ensure education for all children.
Mary Beloff, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member for Albania, said Albania had embarked upon a huge number of legal and institutional reforms in the last few years to guarantee the rights of all children in the country, which should be celebrated. However, she said there needed to be a focus on how policies were implemented, noting a gap between laws and practice.
Benoit Van Keirsbilck, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member for Albania, asked if there were information campaigns which informed children of their rights? Were children told about their entitlement to access to justice? Were there specialised lawyers for child matters? What was the difference between primary and secondary legal aid?
Ann Skelton, Committee Chair and Taskforce Member for Albania, said the previous impediment for education enrolment for Egyptian and Roma children was the civil status law; this had been amended. How was the implementation going? Did this mean all those children were now enrolled? What was being done to combat school dropout?
The delegation said short films translated to sign language had been released to enable all children to understand their right to access to justice. Nearly 160 practitioners were licensed to practice child law and specialised in cases for children. Free legal aid was provided for all children, and 223 children received this last year. Last year, 96 education activities for awareness raising on child justice were organised. Children were no longer detained or served sentences alongside adults.
The delegation said the Ministry of Education provided education to all children in Albania. Any child was accepted into education, even if they did not have a birth certificate or were not on the civil registry. Every child was entitled to enrolment, regardless of their situation. A pre-university management system had been developed which enrolled every child in Albania online, connecting all data from civil registry offices to the data held by schools. This system also helped to bring back children who had left school, or who were at risk of drop out.
Introducing the report, Etleva Sheshi, Director, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Albania, reading the opening statement on behalf of Denada Seferi, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Albania and head of the delegation, said Albania had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and had also ratified the three Optional Protocols of this Convention. The law on the rights and protection of children, aligned with the Convention, was drafted after a consultation process with all relevant stakeholders; 18 secondary legislation acts were adopted for the implementation of the law, which aimed to establish an effective cross-cutting child protection system that also promoted the participation of children.
In closing remarks, Mr. Van Keirsbilck said the Committee had been able to better understand how hard Albania worked on children’s rights. There was a political will and determination country-wide, despite the huge challenges faced.
Denada Seferi, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Albania and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for all the questions. She expressed heartfelt gratitude and support for the guidance which had played a valuable role in shaping Albania’s policies. Albania remained steadfast in its commitment to the Convention and would continue to strive for a brighter future for every child in the country.
The delegation of Albania consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare; the Ministry of Tourism and Environment; the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of State for Youth and Children; the Ministry of Interior; the Ministry of Finance and Economy; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Education and Sports; the Ministry of Culture; the General Directorate of States Police; the National Authority for Electronic Certification and Cyber Security; and the Permanent Mission of Albania to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Albania after the end of its ninety-fourth session on 22 September. Those and other documents relating to the session, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, and webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. this afternoon to begin its consideration of the sixth periodic report of the Dominican Republic (CRC/C/DOM/6).
The Committee has before it the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Albania CRC/C/ALB/5-6).
Presentation of Report
ETLEVA SHESHI, Director, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Albania, reading the opening statement on behalf of DENADA SEFERI, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Albania and head of the delegation, said Albania had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and had also ratified the three Optional Protocols of this Convention. The reporting period included two events of impact in Albania: the 2019 earthquake and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government had developed policies and programmes to ensure appropriate development and care for children.
The law on the rights and protection of children, aligned with the Convention, was drafted after a consultation process with all relevant stakeholders; 18 secondary legislation acts were adopted for the implementation of the law, which aimed to establish an effective cross-cutting child protection system that also promoted the participation of children. New child policies had been adopted and budgeted under the 2021-2026 national child protection agenda and the social protection strategy. The national agenda for the rights of the child 2021-2026 contained cross-cutting measures and actions which addressed the needs for prevention, protection, long-term interventions and the provision of child friendly services.
The development of social plans in all 61 municipalities in the country allowed for better needs identification for integrated social services, especially those focusing on children. The Social Fund provided financial support to enable the establishment of 54 new services in municipalities across the country. Of these, 23 services were children specific and had around 3,000 beneficiaries. Eight specialised services established under the Social Fund were dedicated to children, including a national counselling line; two services for autistic children; one service for child victims of trafficking; one alternative care service for children; and two support services to prevent institutionalisation.
The de-institutionalisation reform was being complemented with the transformation of residential services into community alternative care services, with priority being given to the social and economic empowerment of the families of children in institutions. Currently, social services were provided to all vulnerable groups in Albania in 391 care centres, with around one third provided to "individuals of households in need", which included children.
The "Baby Bonus" was a successful social policy to increase the birth rate which had benefitted over 42,000 new mothers. Around 80,000 children from households in the economic assistance scheme were provided with education and vaccination promotion subsidies, electric energy compensation, free primary and secondary healthcare services, exemption from all education fees, and scholarships. The Albanian Government also provided special protection to the children of those who had sacrificed their lives in duty to the country committing an act of patriotism.
Several child health improvement programmes were in place, including eye examinations, dental care, immunisation and school healthcare programmes; 156,580 children had benefited from the national vision programme. All children had benefited from the comprehensive national immunisation programme, which included 12 vaccines. To date, 2,500 girls had received the HPV vaccine which was 80 per cent of the target population. Two centres had been established for child victims of violence and sexual abuse.
The Albanian State had implemented financial schemes which supported the attendance of marginalised children in public day care services in several municipalities. Attendance of the pre-school year had been reached by 85 per cent of children entering the first grade. During the 2021-2022 academic year, 4,748 students with disabilities attended classes in public and private education institutions. Financial support for Roma, Egyptians and other vulnerable groups was also provided. The Government had adopted the justice for children strategy 2022-2026, which aimed to address the issues encountered by children who had committed criminal offences, with a focus on implementing restorative justice programmes and mediation when children were involved in criminal offences. In closing, Ms. Sheshi expressed Albania’s continued commitment for the implementation of the Convention.
DENADA SEFERI, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Welfare and head of the delegation, said she stood ready to respond to any questions and contribute fruitfully to the dialogue.
Questions by Committee Experts
BENOIT VAN KEIRSBILCK, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member for Albania, commended Albania for its legislative changes over the last few years. Albania had updated many laws, including the law on the protection of children. However, there were concerns around the budget. What had Parliament done to provide proper funding? How was a law’s implementation assessed? Was Albania able to properly assess its laws? Was civil society regularly involved in discussions on the preparation of bills? Were children given the opportunity to participate in the preparation of laws which affected them? How effective was the role of children within the National Council? The Council issued advisory opinions; what happened to them in practice? Did the Government take them into account? How often were child policies assessed? How did Albania ensure they had a real affect?
There were several different institutions which played the role of a national human rights institution, including the Ombudsperson. What happened to the recommendations stemming from this body? How was Parliament organised to follow the recommendations of the institution? Were there information campaigns which informed children of their rights? Were children told about their entitlement to access to justice? Were there specialised lawyers for child matters? What was the difference between primary and secondary legal aid? The poverty level nation-wide was high, particularly for Roma. What was the plan to level this out? Hate speech spread online remained an issue; what was the Government doing about this? What was the State doing to combat corruption and ensure it had no effect on children’s lives? What was being done to aid the significant number of children whose nationalities were not registered?
MARY BELOFF, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member for Albania, said Albania’s report was very comprehensive and detailed. Albania had embarked upon a huge number of legal and institutional reforms in the last few years to guarantee the rights of all children in the country. This should be celebrated. However, there needed to be a focus on how policies were implemented. There was a gap between laws and practice. How did Albania resolve the clash between the number of laws and the loopholes and voids? How was it ensured that all these laws were coordinated through institutional machinery in order to have concrete effects on the ground?
The reform of the 2014 police law had an effect on violence against children and adolescents. How was it ensured that security forces were properly trained to prevent practices which could be tantamount to cruel or degrading treatment? Were there any statistics on convictions of public officials who had been found guilty of these offenses? What procedures were in place to ensure children were protected from reprisals if they made a complaint? Ms. Beloff had been pleased to read about the zero tolerance policy against violence at home. Could more specific figures be provided? Whose authority did the shelters for children fall under?
Albania had reformed the Criminal Code and age of sexual consent. What was being done to prevent sexual violence against girls who were underage? Did revenge killings for family disputes still occur in the country? Female genital mutilation was not traditional in Albania, but there were displaced populations and refugees who may come from cultures where female genital mutilation was relevant. Was any kind of training carried out for public officials to prevent this practice?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that in addition to the national agenda on child rights, child rights were included in cross-cutting sector strategies. Line ministries were tasked with the implementation of the agenda. Albanian legislation provided that strategies be published on the websites of Albanian institutions, meaning they were publicly open for suggestions by relevant stakeholders. Children were elected to the National Council in a democratic and open matter and had the status of observers in the Council. Their voices were heard by the Council and their comments and suggestions were part of the daily work in developing children’s programmes and policies. The Council was chaired by the Minister for Health and Social Protection. Children were elected to the Council every two years. Five were selected from school boards and five by civil society. The law on child rights protection gave the State agency the role of monitoring and coordinating the work of all child institutions across the country.
A programme had been implemented called the sports team programme which had engaged more than 10,000 pre-university children in football and basketball. These sport programmes promoted healthy lives and the principles of teamwork. Another programme, piloted in 100 schools, focused on teaching children critical and analytical thinking; 7,076 children were engaged in this programme, and it was hoped it would be implemented in other schools. The monitoring report of the national agenda on child rights required every institution to report on every measure they were responsible for under the agenda. Funds for education had increased to ensure quality higher and university education, in order to meet the standards of the European Union. The Ministry of Education was committed to improving the quality of education for Roma and other minority children. Teachers were trained on child rights education, and awareness raising activities were conducted with parents on child rights. The number of teachers who worked with students with disabilities had increased. Today there were almost 2,000 teachers working with students with disabilities, up from 66 in 2014. The number of psychosocial workers had doubled and 300 rooms would be constructed to ensure they could go about their work.
The People’s Advocate Institution in Albania had been awarded an A status for a national human rights institution and was in line with the Paris Principles. In 2022, 223 cases were addressed by this Institution, with 92 complaints coming directly from children. The Institution had the right to make recommendations when they found a violation of children’s rights. These recommendations were reported to police and followed up. Another independent mechanism was a sub-committee within the Albanian Parliament called the friends of children group, which held discussions with civil society. Several people displaced from Afghanistan who had come to Albania had been informed on the Convention and the rights it provided, in a language they could understand. The Government focused on helping children from marginalised groups access health and education and also focused on their development after school, including through an afterschool programme called “let’s do homework together”.
The State police provided proper implementation of child rights and was a key actor when it came to identifying gender violence. A coordinated network of institutions had been established to protect victims. A coordinated mechanism of referral for domestic violence had been established and was operating in all the municipalities. People who had been arrested who belonged to vulnerable communities were not discriminated against, according to the 2020 law. These people had the right to submit a complaint regarding their treatment in police facilities.
In 2022, there had been 20 meetings and training with police leadership on how to combat homophobia and hate crimes. There had been discussions on best practice with police, prosecutors, judges and State agents. Access to justice was ensured for children in criminal and administrative proceedings. All structures, including legislative structures and those within the judiciary, had the obligation to consult children and include them within decision making. The friends of children group engaged children and youth in decision making. Short films translated to sign language had been released to enable all children to understand their right to access to justice. Nearly 160 practitioners were licensed to practice child law and specialised in cases for children. The law on free legal aid in Albania was implemented in 2017. There were 18 centres in Albania which provided legal aid across the country. Free legal aid was provided for all children, and 223 children received this last year. Last year, 96 education activities for awareness raising on child justice were organised. Children were no longer detained, or served sentences alongside adults. Those who were a high risk were housed in a facility for children where they were provided with reintegration projects.
There had only been one case of a blood feud, and the Government was working on the rehabilitation of this youth. Albania had seen that every child reported to child protection units was placed under protection to avoid blood feuds being committed. Nationality was not a part of the civil registry in Albania. A national cybersecurity strategy was planned from 2022 to 2025, which provided for the protection of children online. Trainings had been organised with lower secondary education schools and with police on this topic. In 2022, 750 teachers and children received training on online safety. An app was available which enabled any person to report websites or information which impacted the protection of children online. This enabled harmful material to be removed. A code of conduct had been agreed upon to remove illegal and harmful content from the internet. The Criminal Code was being reviewed and foresaw an important part regarding online criminal activity.
Early marriage was encountered almost exclusively among Roma or Egyptian minorities because of the traditions in their families. The Family Court stipulated that the age of marriage was 18, but could be allowed in exceptional circumstances when the courts permitted, such as due to pregnancy. Awareness-raising activities were undertaken in education, including on reproductive health. These were coupled with activities of civil society organizations. When girls were empowered to complete compulsory education, they were less likely to marry early. For the first time, no girl under 18 had been married in Albania in 2022. The practice of forced genital mutilation did not exist in Albania. The Albanian Parliament had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Istanbul Convention in the fight against domestic violence. These two treaties had priority within Albanian legislation. Experts in the field were prepared to address the issue of female genital mutilation, should it arise.
Questions by Committee Experts
VELINA TODOROVA, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member for Albania, said the Committee was not aware of the existence of a Youth Convention. The new policies on children with disabilities were commended, however, there were some shortcomings. The disability allowance was the major type of State support; had disability payments increased? Why were less children receiving payments? How was mapping increasing services to children with disabilities? The Committee had heard 18,000 children with disabilities needed care in Albania and the public service could only cover the needs of 4,000 children; could the delegation clarify this discrepancy? What were plans to strengthen access to assistive devices?
Patients were paying high levels of out of pocket payments for healthcare. Who covered the health insurance for children up to the age of 18, the State or parents? What anti-corruption measures were taken in the healthcare sector? How was the shortage of medical personnel addressed? What was the status of health mediators and how much funding was allocated for them? Why was breast feeding an issue in Albania? What was being done to address this issue? Did access to contraception for adolescents still require parental consent? There was a high level of in-patient mental health treatment. Had a new mental health strategy been adopted? There were no free psychosocial services which could guarantee child development. How would the Government meet children’s needs in this way?
Almost 30 per cent of children in Albania lived in absolute poverty. Were there any national poverty reduction targets? Despite positive legislation, social services were underdeveloped. At least 80 per cent of social services was provided by the non-governmental sector. Could the Government clarify this? The status of the social workforce was concerning. Were there enough staff to provide these services? What kind of training did they receive? There needed to be more clarity about the national electronic register of social services.
ANN SKELTON, Committee Chair and Taskforce Member for Albania, said the previous impediment for education enrolment for Egyptian and Roma children was the civil status law, however, this had been amended. How was the implementation going? Did this mean all those children were now enrolled? What was being done to combat school dropout? Twenty-three per cent of the schooling system was private. What was the Government’s approach to the privatisation of education and what was the Government doing to ensure regulation? Were teachers spread across the country?
What progress had been made on establishing alternative care options of migrant or asylum-seeking children who could not be reunited with their families? What methods were used to assess the age of children whose ages were uncertain? Did migrant children have free legal aid or guardians appointed for them? What was Albania’s position on statelessness?
What was being done aside from the cash transfer initiative to prevent child labour in the country? How many children were in street situations in Albania? Did professionals know how to deal with these children? Did children know they had access to psychosocial services? What oversight mechanisms were in place in child detention centres? Albania’s action plan for justice for children was not fully implemented, and it was disappointing that the entire budget had not been spent. Why was this the case? How had children who had come back from Syria and Iraq been reintegrated? What was being done to bring back those who were still in the camps?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said in Albania, a child was someone between the ages of zero to 18. The Government had reformed the assessment system for disability, in line with World Health Organization standards. This new scheme of assessment had been applied all over the country. The scheme allowed persons with disabilities to be helped with cash payments, social services, and vocational trainings. Apart from the payment support for children with disabilities, they were also supported with health and social services, in line with their needs. Public transport was free of charge for children with disabilities.
The National European Integration Programme 2022–2025 oversaw access on all Parliament websites and applications. This would allow persons and children with disabilities to have easier access to public services. Through the Social Fund, two new services had been established, including a mobile service which provided services to children in rural and remote areas, as well as an emergency service.
There had been an increase in the budget allocated by the Government to health care, which had resulted in the improvement of primary health care, increased access to medical treatment, improvement to health infrastructure and hospitals, and more accessible services. There had been changes in the reimbursed drugs lists; 214 new drugs were included in these lists and the funds dedicated to drug reimbursement had been increased. This helped alleviate citizens paying for medication out of pocket. Patients with blood cancer and breast cancer received medical treatment free of charge. Since 2014, the Government had tripled the budget for cancer treatments.
The Government’s policies regarding the reduction of benefits for children was related to the empowerment of their families. Families from Roma and Egyptian communities and other vulnerable groups benefited from economic assistance payments; 63,142 families across the country benefitted from this assistance. A new policy was being applied in Albania, which aimed to support unemployed women with more than three children under the age of 18. The State undertook the payments of health and social insurance for these children. More than 8,000 women benefitted from this programme. The “Baby Bonus” was direct assistance for children and newly born babies, guaranteeing that upon birth of the first child, the State made a cash payment, which increased each time a child was born. Bonuses had been paid to 19,270 babies born in 2023 to date. Health care services for children in Albania were covered by the Health Care insurance fund.
Sexual and reproductive education was included in the school curriculum. There was also training about discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children. The sexual and reproductive action plan had been adopted this year, which included improvements to natal and post-natal health care, the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, and the prevention of cancer in the reproductive tract. The mental health care action plan 2023–2026 addressed the issues of mental health care for children and adolescents in detail, including early identification, treatment and referral to specialised services. Psychosocial services in schools were a key focus of the Ministry of Education. The number of psychosocial staff in schools had increased to 720 staff across the country to date, from 26 in 2013. There were between 500 and 700 students per psychosocial worker, meaning almost all schools were covered by a psychosocial worker. Some schools were also covered by a psychologist.
Albania was a model country regarding the treatment of juveniles entering the country, or children who were being repatriated back to Albania. The first identification of asylum-seeking children happened when they arrived at the border. All the children who entered into Albanian territory were guaranteed equal rights. There had been a decrease in international children entering into Albanian territory. Albania was viewed as a transit country and not as one to seek asylum. Children had arrived with groups of people from Afghanistan to Albania. A new centre had been established to support these children, as well as their mothers. In 2022, teachers from Afghanistan had been trained in the Albanian language, maths and general knowledge. Children and adolescents benefitted from psychosocial consulting and activities had been organised for the prevention of gender-based violence.
Information on all asylum seeking, migrant and refugee children was gathered, and commissions were established in schools to assess the individual needs of these children and help them reach the level of their peers; 40 children had returned from Syria and were continuing their studies. There were 29 children from Ukraine who had come to Albania. All of these students had a dedicated psychosocial service to support them and integrate them with their peers.
Albania was focused on the impact of air quality on the quality of life of children and adults, and had incorporated this into the education curriculum. The curriculum was 36 class hours and beneficiaries were students from grade one to nine. This included managing environmental pollution, how to manage waste, and how to impart this knowledge to their families. Schools were learning about recycling, reusing and reduction, and education was provided on reducing the use of natural resources and how to manage waste.
The Ministry of Education provided education to all children in Albania. Any child was accepted into education, even if they did not have a birth certificate or were not on the civil registry. Every child was entitled to enrolment, regardless of their situation. A pre-university management system had been developed, which enrolled every child in Albania online, connecting all data from civil registry offices to the data held by schools. Through this system, every child who met the age criteria became a part of the pre-education system. This system also helped to bring back children who had left school, or who were at risk of dropping out. There were schools known as part-time schools which provided children of any age, who were facing difficulties such as anger issues, the opportunity to attend compulsory education. This helped to prevent these children from dropping out of schools, instead gradually reintegrating them back into the education system.
The juvenile institution provided internal and external monitoring through the People’s Advocate. The Committee for Criminal Decisions also monitored this institution, as well as the national mechanism for the prevention of torture. It did not function as a penitentiary but more as a school, enabling children to follow rehabilitation programmes. There were always more staff members than the children who were housed there. One of the reasons for the establishment of the institution was to prevent torture and ensure the implementation of United Nations standards.
Questions by Committee Experts
BENOIT VAN KEIRSBILCK, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member for Albania, thanked the delegation for the informative answers provided so far. Was there a strategy to try and tackle the issue of poverty in a holistic manner? This seemed to remain a huge problem in the country, particularly affecting children. Were there any guidelines or principles which could apply the best interests of the child? Were there any policies to protect children when they expressed their views in society? Was there a youth parliament where children could take the lead in discussions? Was there a policy in place to ensure children were treated in a positive manner, even when arrested? Albania should be commended for ratifying the Optional Protocol. Was there information provided to children to inform them of the existence of this mechanism?
MARY BELOFF, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member for Albania, asked if Albania would amend its Civil Code regarding rape and consent for girls between 14 and 18 years of age? Were non-punitive mechanisms and restorative measures being used in cases of violence against children? How were the best interests of the child taken into account in cases where they were separated from their family? How was the situation of children adopted by families abroad monitored? The efforts Albania had made to find alternative measures to institutionalisation were noted; however, there had also been reports which said progress was not as speedy as expected. What difficulties did Albania face in making progress on the issue of de-institutionalisation. How was it ensured once a child was de-institutionlised that they did not end up on the street?
VELINA TODOROVA, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member for Albania, said she had received information that children above the age of 15 in Albania did not have health insurance. Albania had a good vaccination rate; were there any issues with parents who did not want certain vaccinations for their children? What measures were taken by the Government to combat issues in nutrition, such as anaemia?
A Committee Expert asked why the environment was so closely linked to the Ministry of Tourism? Was this the best host ministry to address the most pressing issue of the time? How much mainstreaming was really taking place with regard to the environment and children? How much participation was enjoyed by adolescents regarding the Government policies and climate change?
One Committee Expert asked if there were child psychiatrists who focused solely on children? What information was there on children who could not attend school due to blood feuds? What could be said about orthopaedic equipment for children? Were there early detection services for children with disabilities? What programmes were in place to ensure children were taught about proper nutrition?
Another Expert said Albania had made considerable progress in child protection, including the law which had been place since 2017 and a comprehensive child protection structure. How were children who experienced violence and sexual abuse heard? Were children subject to cross-examination in a court setting, or could their statement be recorded? How was it ensured that child victims of sexual violence received access to appropriate redress?
An Expert noted that children were involved in drafting laws. Was this an obligatory procedure, or was it just practice? How was the coordination managed between different agencies in cases of child rights violation?
A Committee Expert asked if measures were guaranteed to provide confidentiality to children who wished to file a complaint to the Ombudsperson’s Office? To what extent did the Government take the recommendations of the Ombudsperson on board?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said assessments had been undertaken with the United Nations Children’s Fund to establish the number of children who were not in school in Albania. Private education had been established to ease the State budget and was established based on education acts in force. Every private education institution had the obligation to implement the national curriculum devised by the Ministry of Education. They were subject to monitoring just like public institutions. A system had been developed for the employment of teachers for children with disabilities, based on need. Committees decided on the level of a child’s disability and whether they required an assistant teacher. Assistant teachers were trained on how to work with students with disabilities.
An action plan had been developed to combat cybercrime, including with specific provisions to combat online abuse against children. A specific sector had been developed to investigate cases of child pornography, which served as a contact point between Europol and Interpol. Since the structure of the referral mechanism had been changed, there was a responsible authority for the reintegration of victims of trafficking. This aimed to ensure a comprehensive inclusion of all State institutions involved in the domain. The State Inspectorate of Labour and Social Services was the responsible institution to identify cases where children were economically exploited. If they found children doing prohibited jobs, they would immediately report this to the Child Protection Unit in the relevant area.
The Ministry of Health and Social Protection had a holistic approach in developing the child rights agenda. Under the social protection strategy, Albania foresaw a national action plan which included activities and measures to support households and reduce poverty. The best interest of the child was provided under Albanian legislation, which stipulated that children and youth had the right to special protection. Children born out of wedlock had the same rights as those born in wedlock. The best interests of the child were provided in the lawful protection of child rights, as well as other laws. There had been training for both justice system workers and police on the right to assembly. The law for child rights protection provided protection for children under public assembly.
The courts now listened to children as a party, and would hear a child from the age of 12. Even below the age of 12, it was important to assess the risk of separating the child from their family. If children were in conflict with the law, they were separated from adults and by gender. The State police was subject to internal and external monitoring. The Ombudsperson and other human rights institutions could monitor the police. A National Council for Children had been established, which enabled services to be brought to children. Albania still had challenges regarding compliance with protocols.
The majority of abuse to children happened within the family circle and among relatives. Work had been done to break the taboo and enable children and their relatives to report on violence in family situations. This meant more reports and data were available on this subject. The referral mechanism for violence against children ensured that children were immediately placed under protection. Children were very rarely called to court and placed in front of the perpetrator. There was a register for sexual offenders which was shown in schools. The new Criminal Code provided for all offences, including sexual violence, and was expected to be finalised by 2024.
Regarding the de-institutionalisation process, this was a process which had been implemented over the past two years. There had been challenges in this regard. Albania had followed a de-institutionalisation process based on transforming residential institutions into multi-disciplinary services which supported children who had resided in these institutions. Staff and personnel were also trained to provide new kinds of services. Alternative services were being established for children who had left institutions. Support was provided to keep children safe until they were returned to their family. This was a long-term process which needed a clear strategy. The process of monitoring children who were adopted outside the country was a two-year process.
Albania was following a holistic model for tourism, and considered the environment in this regard. The Government aimed to develop tourism in a sustainable manner across the territory. This was why the Ministry of Tourism was linked so closely with the climate issue. Children had been taken to protected areas with their schools to strengthen their connection to the environment. Education curricula and pre-university education developed children’s knowledge about climate change, including the impact of human activity on greenhouse gases and the environment. The law on climate change adopted in 2020 would ensure that children’s viewpoints were included on this topic.
BENOIT VAN KEIRSBILCK, Committee Expert and Taskforce Member for Albania, said the Committee had been able to better understand how hard Albania worked on children’s rights. There was a political will and determination country-wide, despite the huge challenges faced. It was a work in progress. The Committee would work on the concluding observations with the hope that Albania would be able to continue to improve the rights of the child in the country.
DENADA SEFERI, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Albania and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for all the questions. She expressed heartfelt gratitude and support for the guidance which had played a valuable role in shaping Albania’s policies. Albania remained steadfast in its commitment to the Convention and would continue to strive for a brighter future for every child in Albania. Ms. Seferi assured the Committee that Albania looked forward to continuing the dialogue and was eager to collaborate on enhancing child rights in Albania.
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