Covid-19, threefold increase in calls for help at the National Hotlinefor Domestic Violence cases / Up to 6 protection orders issued within oneday in DurrësDistrict

The number of calls for help from victims of domestic violence during the Covid-19 isolation period in Albania has tripled. Albanian Women Empowerment Network– AWEN reports that the National Line for Women and Girls 116117 received around 2000 calls during the period of isolation (March 10 – May 18) because of the pandemic, marking a threefold increase in calls, compared to the same period in 2019.

According to the data gathered by AWEN, about 534 cases of domestic violence and trafficking have been supported by nine AWEN member organizations, through provision of hundreds of psychological and legal counseling sessions and/or concrete legal assistance. The highest increase in requests for assistance and support was observed in the region of Dibra (125%) Elbasan (100%), Shkodra (76%), the area of Pogradec (58%) and Durrës (50%).

“Only during the month of May, on certain days, the District Court of Durrës has issued up to 6 immediate protection orders per day” – is reported by AWEN.

AWEN member organizations have noticed a very significant increase in the number of cases that have requested assistance during the quarantine period, compared to January and February 2020 or the same period in the previous year. Requests for assistance are mainly related to the steps that can be taken if violence is repeated or increased during isolation, confirmation of the Immediate Protection Order (short term) and issuance of a Protection Order (long term), extension of the Protection Order, denunciation of cases of violence, need for psychological support and counseling on how to keep the violent situation under control, counseling related to aggravated mental health due to isolation and fear of episodes of violence, etc.

According to AWEN, the percentage of denunciations/ reportingto the police does not reflect the real situation of domestic violence in the country during the isolation, as many victims of violence have not sought for help because of various reasons, such as: lack of access to information due to isolation; the victim and the abuser live in the same apartment and her movements were closely monitored by the abuser; restrictions of the movement of citizens in general and fear of administrative and penal sanctions; lack of an alternative shelter, etc.

Despite the isolation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, AWEN member organizations (10 organizations working mainly in 8 regions of the country (Tirana, Shkodra, Elbasan, Vlora, Durres, Saranda, Pogradec, Peshkopi), some of them with national coverage of services for Victims of Violence and Trafficking, have continued their activity and provision of services for victims of domestic violence and victims/potential victims of trafficking and their children. Starting from April 10, 2020, “COVID-19 Emergency Protocol for Shelters” is being implemented, based on order no. 254 of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection.

During this period, the organizations have made available to the public the contact numbers of specialists (psychologists, lawyers, social worker) who have provided the relevant services by phone during working hours and week days, some of them during 24 hours/ 7 days. In addition to distance psychological and legal counseling, representation in courts for issuance of protection orders, as well as psychological support in police stations for victims of violence, etc. has been available. Cases have been continuously referred to the relevant local administrative units, while many women victims of domestic violence facing economic difficulties have been assisted with food packages.

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