Birth Registration: An individual acquires citizenship by birth within the country’s territory or from a citizen parent. Parents were encouraged to register the birth of a child in a timely manner, and the law provides for a monetary reward for parents who register their children within 60 days of birth. Often, however, authorities did not disburse the reward. There were no reports of discrimination in birth registration, but residency requirements for registration made it more difficult for the many Romani and Balkan-Egyptian parents who were without legally documented places of residence to register their children and to access government services that were dependent on registration.
According to the domestic branch of the NGO Association for the Social Support of Youth (ARSIS), children born to internal migrants or those returning from abroad, especially from Greece, frequently had no birth certificates or other legal documentation and as a result were unable to attend school or have access to services. This was particularly a problem for Romani families, where couples often married young and failed to register the births of their children.
Education: School attendance is mandatory through the ninth grade or until age 16, whichever occurs first, but many children, particularly in rural areas, left school earlier to work with their families. Parents must purchase supplies, books, uniforms, and space heaters for some classrooms; these were prohibitively expensive for many families, particularly Roma and other minorities. Many families also cited these costs as a reason for not sending girls to school. Although the government had a program to reimburse low-income families for the cost of textbooks, many families and NGOs reported they were unable to receive reimbursement after purchasing the books.
Child Abuse: Observers believed that child abuse was widespread, although victims rarely reported it. In 2013 the Children’s Human Rights Center reported that 58 percent of children were victims of physical abuse, 11 percent were victims of sexual harassment, and almost 5 percent said they had been victims of sexual abuse. Almost 70 percent of children reported psychological abuse from family members, according to the center. ARSIS reported that through September it assisted 50 cases of children who were victims of psychological and physical abuse. Through November the NGO Terre des Hommes handled 65 cases involving children victims of abuse.
Early and Forced Marriage: Although the legal minimum age for marriage is 18, authorities did not enforce the law. Underage marriages occurred mostly in rural areas and within Romani communities. According to 2009 statistics from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), 9.6 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before they were 18. The UNFPA reported that in 2011, approximately 31 percent of female Romani children between the ages of 13 and 17 were married. ARSIS reported that, in certain Romani communities, girls as young as seven or boys as young as nine were considered married. Through September ARSIS assisted 12 underage girls who ran away because their families were forcing them into marriage and two who were fleeing existing ‘spouses’. Some NGOs reported that early and forced marriages occurred in rural communities as part of human trafficking schemes, when parents consented for their underage girls to marry older foreign men, who subsequently trafficked them to other countries.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Some children under the age of 18 were exploited for prostitution. The penalties for the commercial sexual exploitation of a child range from eight to 15 years’ imprisonment. The country has a statutory rape law, and the minimum age for consensual sex is 14. The penalty for statutory rape is a prison term of five to 15 years. In aggravated circumstances, the penalty may increase to life imprisonment. The law prohibits making or distributing child pornography; penalties are a prison sentence of three to 10 years. Possession of child pornography is illegal. The law explicitly includes minors in provisions that cover sexual abuse, harassment, exploitation for prostitution, benefiting from services offered by trafficked persons, facilitating trafficking, and domestic violence. Authorities generally enforced laws against the rape and sexual exploitation of minors effectively, but NGOs reported that laws prohibiting child pornography were rarely enforced.
Displaced Children: There continued to be numerous displaced and street children, particularly in the Romani community. Street children begged or did petty work; some migrated to neighboring countries, particularly during the summer. These children were at highest risk of trafficking, and some became trafficking victims. Since the law prohibits the prosecution of children under 14 for burglary, criminal gangs at times used displaced children to burglarize homes. There were few prosecutions of child trafficking cases.
A study issued in May 2014, conducted by the UN Children’s Fund and Save the Children with the support of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, found that more than 2,500 children, nearly 75 percent of them from Romani or Balkan-Egyptian communities, begged or worked informally on the streets. The majority lived in homes with two parents. Most children reported that earning money for their family was the principal reason for their begging or work, and nearly one-third of them said their parents forced them to work. According to the report, a third of children working or on the streets ran the risk of being trafficked. In response to the study, the government implemented a pilot program in Tirana to remove children from the street and provide them with social care. The government also began a pilot program providing financial incentives to parents to send their children to school and have them vaccinated. The State Agency for the Protection of Children’s Rights, which monitored the program, reported that authorities had moved 242 out of 485 identified children from the streets during 2015. The employment of more than 300 children to harvest cannabis in fields in the southern municipality of Lazarat presumably declined or ended with the reported near-total destruction by police of the cannabis fields during the year.
Institutionalized Children: There were reports that orphans leaving the custody of the state at the legal age of adulthood (18) faced significant problems finding adequate housing and services.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s report on compliance at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html and country-specific information at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/english/country/Albania.html.