Victims of domestic crime forgotten by the state. Minors without social and psychological support

  • Shqip
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  • Witnesses of shocking events, children with crime in the family struggle to get on with life, amid institutional oblivion and extreme poverty. Despite the numerous laws approved for the welfare of children, this category is not even offered psychological services, causing a number of them to turn from victims into criminals.


    Author: Ina Allkanjari

    Witness to one of the most dramatic events, the years have not been able to erase from his memory the moment when he saw his father kill his mother.

    Valbona, mother of three children, died in the backyard of her house in Fushë-Mamurras, as a result of macabre violence, perpetrated by her husband, Marjan Lleshi, 9 years ago. Everything happened in front of the eyes of three minor children, who were at home.

    “All three of us were there when it happened. I saw him first, and then the brother and sister, who were very young”, says the 16-year-old, the victim’s son, who was only 7 years old at the time.

    Stuck in the trap of that macabre event, despair and hopelessness are clearly visible in the boy’s eyes.

    Abandoned and forgotten by the state, the consequences continue to weigh on her two sons and her daughter, who were respectively 9, 7 and 2 years old, when their mother was killed by their father.

    Viktor and Tale Gjokeja, Valbona’s parents, legally took over the upbringing of their two grandsons and granddaughter after the serious crime, but the difficulties for this family had just begun.

    The little girl is a child with special abilities and needs more specialized treatment, as well as psychological, social and economic help, which the other two boys, minors, needed, despite the heavy burden, they have not felt the hand of the state.

    The elderly accuse the institutions of leaving them alone to raise the children. Viktor Gjokeja tells with despair that the little girl was in immediate need of specialized help, which was not offered to her by the state institutions.

    “No one from the state was interested, despite the urgent need that the little one had. If she had received this help, I am convinced that she would be more developed in communication. For two years I have taken my daughter to Tirana at my own expense, but now I myself have rings in my heart and it is impossible for me to come and go within the day”, Viktor Gjokeja confesses in despair.

    According to Viktor, everything that they have benefited from, they have achieved only thanks to his acquaintances and only in recent years, the grandmother has been recognized for the guardianship payment for her daughter, who suffers from Down’s syndrome.

    “When the girl was 4 years old, i.e. two years after the incident, she came to my house through the company of an acquaintance of ours, a girl who worked for the State Social Services and helped me so that the children received about 9 thousand lek per month each. And only two years ago, my wife was recognized for the custody payment for her daughter, and since then she receives 10,600 ALL per month”, he explains.

    Viktor and Tale Gjokeja with their granddaughter

    Psychological help, which is mandatory, has been an impossible luxury for these children of crime in the family.

    “There was no psychological help at any time. Once a week, a psychologist comes to the 9-year-old’s school here in Derven, but not a psychologist to follow the children for this case”, – says the old man with pain.

    Immersed in misery and severe economic conditions, the eldest son attended only the first year of high school and then emigrated to Italy, where he works. With the money he earns, he helps his grandparents, brother and younger sister.

    The three children orphaned by the murder of their mother do not benefit from the orphan status, as they have their father alive, despite the fact that he is in prison and his family has given up taking care of the three children.

    In this situation, grandfather Viktor appeals that at least the second son can be educated.

    “My grandson is finishing highschool very soon. I really want to send him to college in Tirana. He studies, but I don’t have money and the opportunity to cover his living expenses in Tirana, it’s impossible for me to pay for his boarding school, tuition, and food every month. I need the state to help me so that my second son doesn’t leave school half-way”, said Viktor.

    For psychologist Lorela Garuli, minors, victims of crime in the family, especially in cases where they witness the event, need immediate psychological help.

    “The psychological effects are short-term and long-term, especially if they are not treated. At the very least, in such cases the child will experience a very high state of anxiety, very high stress, regressive behavior, very great uncertainty and fear”, says psychologist Garuli.

    According to her, the law has many loopholes and in many cases this help is not offered to children.

    “From the cases I know informally, these children do not receive psychological help. If these children receive the status of orphans due to crime in the family, they are treated by the state or by structures, such as “Zyber Hallulli”, but there are extreme gaps and deficiencies in terms of the law”, explains Garuli.


    Institutional oblivion

    Witnessing shocking events, the children of crime in the family carry on with their lives amid institutional and legal oblivion.

    The data provided by Investigative Network Albania shows that every year, hundreds of cases are registered, where minors are victims of violence and other crimes in the family.

    The State Police reports that only in the last 5 years 1,214 minors have fallen prey to violence or other family crimes.

    Year 2018

    Year 2019

    Year 2020

    The year 2021


    Minors harmed by violence and other crimes in the family






    Minors injured by violence or other crimes in the family, according to the State Police

    The State Agency for Children’s Rights and Protection (ASHDMF), established in 2011, is the executive body in the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, which has overall responsibility for the coordination, implementation and monitoring of the National Agenda for Children’s Rights.

    However, despite this direct responsibility, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection in an official response says that it does not have data on the number of children affected by crime in the family, but it does have data on cases of violence against children, which include cases of psychological violence, physical and sexual violence in children.


    Physical Violence

    Sexual Violence

    Psychological Violence

















    Even these figures are quite disturbing and speak of about 1,800 children, victims of physical, psychological and sexual violence.

    Referring to these data, the figures of sexual violence reported during the two years of the pandemic, 2020 and 2021, are also dramatic, indicating an increase in the number of denunciations by 3 times more than in previous years.

    “There is a kind of unjustified legal and institutional neglect in terms of child care. Albania is the only country where no municipality has at least one center where children, young people, mothers and fathers can receive services due to domestic violence”, says Altin Hazizaj, a lawyer who has been engaged for years in the issue of protection of children

    According to Hazizaj, as a result of the lack of this instrument from state institutions, they turn to non-governmental organizations, as the only place where children, victims of domestic violence, can receive free services.

    Referred Decision of Council of Ministers No. 578, dated 3.10.2018 “On Referral Procedures and Case Management, Drafting and Content of the Individual Protection Plan, Funding of Expenses for its Implementation, as well as the Implementation of Protection Measures”, it is precisely the Child Protection Officer who performs the function of the case manager for children in need of protection, from the moment of identification or referral, during the design and implementation of the protection measure until their conclusion.

    The Child Protection Officer (CPO) is the structure at the local level for the coordination and implementation of child protection services and case management, in cooperation with a number of actors from different fields, operating at the local level.

    Screenshot, part of the response of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection

    But, despite the structures set up for the protection and management of the case of the child in need, families affected by family crime tell INA MEDIA that the institutions do not work and neglect minor children, who are victims of family crime.

    Even the National Agenda for the Protection of Children, 2021-2026, admits that the laws are good, but the protection of children has failed on the ground, as a result of insufficient resources, both financial and human.

    “The improved legislation so far is not accompanied by the necessary increase in financial resources at the local and central level. The lack of updated analyzes of the situation of children, mainly the most vulnerable groups, is evident, risking that their needs remain completely unknown and unfulfilled”, – quotes the 2021-2026 Strategy .

    Unclear in fulfilling the duties assigned to it by law, the Agency for Quality Assurance in Pre-University Education gives a vague answer to Investigative Network Albania regarding the psychological help offered in schools for the cases of children who come from families affected by crime, but does not clarify in any line, whether this category is assisted with special help or not.

    “School psychologists and social workers in schools serve as key actors who, in collaboration with caring teachers, parents, school leaders and other actors, plan interventions related to education, behavior management, creating a friendly environment, stress management, dealing with difficulties and problems, etc.”, – is written in the response of this agency.

    Altin Hazizaj, the head of the Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights in Albania (CRCA/ECPAT), tells Investigative Network Albania that in the past he has dealt with cases of crime in the family, where problems with guardianship were encountered.

    “The damage caused to these children in such cases is very great. We had a case where, despite the fact that the child was left with the maternal grandmother (victim) by court decision, the paternal grandmother (murderer) kidnapped the minor girl, paid to bring the girl from Albania to Greece, where she lived together with the girl’s aunt. We have had children, in cases where they were girls, who ended up victims of prostitution or trafficking due to lack of support”, he says, emphasizing the poor service offered to this category.


    Lack of psychological treatment

    On February 25, 2020, Esmeralda Filopati, a victim of domestic violence, was executed together with her brother in the backyard, in Rrëshen, by her ex-husband. Fatmir Kolecaj shot Esmeralda and Vledison Filopati with a firearm. Esmeralda’s three young daughters saw the whole scene, witnessing this macabre crime.

    The minors, who are growing up orphans, with the support of Esmeralda’s parents, Fran and Nusha Filopati, need psychological treatment.

    Fran Filopati tells Investigative Network Albania that the state has provided an aid of 9 thousand lek per month for each girl, who are currently 8, 10 and 13 years old, but with despair the old man says that his granddaughters need psychological help.

    “After the crime, the girls saw their mother killed in the yard together with their uncle. They are very burdened psychologically, but I do not have the opportunity to take them to a psychologist. I can give them something to eat and drink, take them to school and pick them up, that’s all I can do”, says Fran Filopati.

    “I need help from a psychologist, the girls live in the place where the tragedy happened, it is very difficult for them”, insists the grandfather of the minors.

    He asks the state institutions to help them leave the house where the crime took place, as it is very difficult for the girls to live in Kodër-Rrëshen, where the double murder took place.

    “I want to remove my nieces from this house, since the murder happened here, at least let’s go to Rrëshen. Every time they go outside to play, they see a crime scene. I don’t want any other help, only to remove these children from this house”, – says Fran Filopati, immersed in despair.


    From victim to killer

    On January 24, 2022, 17-year-old Florian Përvathi from Lezha raised a gun and executed his neighbor, 65-year-old Lek Lekgjonaj, for blood feud.

    Everything started 13 years ago, in 2009, when Ndue Lekgjonaj, Leka’s brother, killed Florian’s father. That same day, Flori’s mother drank photoxin, ending her life, as she could not bear the pain of losing her husband, leaving behind three minor children. Floriani, then only 4 years old, was also in the room of the tragedy, who saw his mother dead.

    Florian’s story is clear evidence of the failure of all the institutions that have the duty to take care of these children of crime.

    In front of everyone’s eyes, but without anyone paying attention, the minor turned from victim into a murderer.

    Fredi Përvathi, Florian’s relative, tells Investigative Network Albania that since the tragedy, the 4 children were raised by their grandfather, grandmother and uncle’s daughter-in-law, who also had two children.

    “The children, who were orphaned, did not receive any help from the state, no one asked or cared about what is happening to these children. All 4 children grew up in scandalous conditions, with pensions for the elderly and disabled. There were a total of 6 children in one house, as they lived together with the 2 children of the uncle and his daughter-in-law”, – Fredi, Florian’s relative, tells of the abandonment by the state of the four minors.

    According to him, from the moment when the children were orphaned, until Floriani committed the serious crime, none of the children was offered psychological help by the state.

    “I don’t know if anyone has gone and offered help to these children, psychological help the least” – he declares.

    This fact has been confirmed by Floriani himself, in an interview for the media, that for the first time he met the psychologist in the prison premises, after the serious crime.

    “I have never had a psychologist nearby to guide me and keep me on the right path. For the first time I met the psychologist and the social worker in prison, when I no longer needed it”, Florian declared.

    Shocked by what has happened, the relative admits that no one has understood Florian’s plight, describing him as a shy and withdrawn young man.

    “This event cannot be undone, but we did not realize that something like this could happen. We were shocked when we found out. Florian was a bit of a shy, closed off guy, we didn’t understand.
    Florian is a very smart child, he is an artist, he is a painter, he makes sculptures”, – says the minor’s relative.

    Desperate, he confesses that Florian could have a completely different future, after he had won the painting school in Shkodër, but for economic reasons he could not continue, being forced to work in a car wash.

    Paintings by Florian

    Completely different from the research of Investigative Network Albania , the State Police talks about the presence of psychologists and social workers for minors in conflict with the law.

    “At every stage of the criminal proceedings with minors in conflict with the law, as well as during the questioning of the minor – victim or witness – regardless of the age over or under 14 years, the presence of the psychologist is mandatory”, – tells INA MEDIA – s State Police.

    “In all cases, when the minor is in conflict with the law, a victim or a witness, the employee of the Child Protection Unit, in the jurisdiction where the event occurred or was recorded, is immediately notified, in order to fulfill all the obligations defined in the Law No. 37/2017 ” Code of Criminal Justice for Minors”, as well as taking protective measures in implementation of Law No. 18/2017 ” On the rights and protection of the child”, the State Police further clarifies.

    Psychologist Lorela Garuli insists that, if these children do not have appropriate psychological treatment, they will have difficulties in managing impulses, aggressiveness and self-control.

    “Such events create a predisposition, not only for dissociative disorders, such as dissociative personality disorder, post-traumatic stress, but also for other more serious disorders, such as borderline . On the other hand, there are children who will not only lose faith, but these foundations, which are essential for a healthy, human growth, will be shaken,” explains psychology.

    According to her, in such cases, emergency intervention is needed to ensure the well-being of children.

    “These children can later become violent themselves if they are not treated. They will have many difficulties in managing impulses, aggressiveness, and self-control. These are cases that first require an emergency intervention, so we work very intensively first and then we work to elaborate the trauma. There may be cases that need to be followed, perhaps even for years in a row, in order to minimize the negative consequences as much as possible”, – says the psychologist to INA MEDIA .

    The head of CRCA, Altin Hazizaj, says that a child who grows up with violence in the family or is a victim of crime in the family, may turn into a crime component in the future, if he does not receive the appropriate treatment and support from the state authorities, so he emphasizes investing in prevention services.

    “Since there is no center that offers services, the mother-father conflict begins with small signs and ends up to murder, and this means that the Albanian state allows the situation to worsen, until the moment when someone will be killed. That is, someone must be harmed before receiving services, while all over the world the services for domestic violence are preventive services”, – concludes Hazizaj.

    Ky shkrim është pjesë e projektit që mbështetet financiarisht nga Zyra e Mardhënieve me Publikun e Ambasadës së SH.B.A. në Tiranë. Opinionet, gjetjet, konkluzionet dhe rekomandimet e shprehura janë te autor-it/ve dhe nuk përfaqesojnë domosdoshmërisht ato të Departamentit të Shtetit. / This article is part of a project that is financially supported by the Public Relations Office of the US Embassy in Tirana. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of State.