Advice and Service Centres (ASCs)
MWL is part of the National Referral Network in Albania, which aims to prevent human trafficking. Through our ASCs we identify victims and potential victims needing support, as well as identifying broader community needs. Identification of victims is not always straightforward – they may be fearful, threatened with violence and stigma. Trust is built slowly and sensitively. In partnership with other organisations our centres provide rescue, counselling and referral services, and advice on legal, social and economic issues.
In 2021, ASCs handled 2,088 cases, 803 of which were identified as among our target population of individuals vulnerable to violence and exploitation.
13 potential victims were identified in 2021 at ASCs and given immediate protection and support.
In cooperation with our partners, 62 survivors of human trafficking, domestic and gender-based violence received support across our service areas.
In 2021 MWL partnered with local government in Lezha to improve access to legal services. The opening of the Free Legal Advice Office of the local Ministry of Justice of Lezha has enhanced our ability to help clients to access legal support.
It is encouraging to see a trend among ASC users towards more self-advocacy and whistleblowing about unjust treatment. When people understand their rights and actively seek the social benefits they are entitled to, this is the first step down a path of advocacy for themselves and others.
ASCs strive to increase access to medical treatment and support services. MWL staff help vulnerable people to make medical appointments, accompany patients, and provide emotional support through the treatment period and beyond. Mental health support is also given through our advice centre in Tirana and virtually to those in need in other regions.
Our partnership with the UK Medaille Trust is especially valuable in clarifying victims’ identity and providing remote counselling to traumatised people in UK shelters.
The location of our ASCs, some in very remote areas, enables us to act as a vital conduit for government help in times of crisis like the 2019 earthquake, when 51 people were killed and some 3,000 injured. The Covid Pandemic also saw our staff working tirelessly to support communities with distribution of food and basics.