NEWS: `White meat trade'' scars Czech borderland

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Subject: NEWS: `White meat trade'' scars Czech borderland
From: Jyothi Kanics (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Date: Mon Feb 08 1999 - 14:37:30 EST


> FEATURE - ``White meat trade'' scars Czech borderland
>
>RTw 2/4/99 9:09 PM
>
>
>Copyright 1999 Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved.
>The following news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole
>or in part, without the prior written consent of Reuters Ltd.
>
> By Nigel Stephenson
> DUBI, Czech Republic, Feb 5 (Reuters) - With an estimated 800
>prostitutes in a population of less than 9,000, the northern Czech border
>town of Dubi is for some women the end of the line in Eastern Europe's
>"white meat trade."
> Dubi, strung along the main freight route north from Prague, has
>earned an unenvied reputation as a sex playground for Germans from across
>the frontier eight km (five miles) away.
> Many of the prostitutes are there voluntarily, police say. But some of
>the women sitting scantily clad in the windows of the town's 37 brothels or
>standing in the snow at the roadside, are victims of an illicit, often
>violent trade in human misery across Eastern Europe to the borders of the
>rich West.
> "It is an organised crime, very well defined and with a structure,"
>said Dubi police chief Jan Ryska, whose officers survey the streets through
>a series of hidden cameras.
> Prostitution existed in Dubi even under communism when heavy lorries
>passed towards the German border. But it boomed after the 1989 fall of
>totalitarian rule when travel became easier and the wealth gap between East
>and West more apparent.
> Privatisation allowed residents to buy their homes and sell them on to
>gangsters from Yugoslavia, Romania or elsewhere.
> Psychologist and local councillor Jutta Kucerova said the sex industry
>was damaging civic life in Dubi. In part, she blames a failure in the heady
>days after the fall of communism to pass legislation to contain it.
> "The emphasis on freedom was so great and nobody saw the dangers," she
>said.
> Today, a rash of "exotic nightclubs" with gaudy neon signs line roads
>close to the borders with Germany and Austria.
> Statistics are difficult to obtain. Prostitution is not a crime,
>though pimping is, and many of the foreign women working on the border do
>not need visas so are beyond police control.
> And, says Barbel Butterweck, director of the Czech La Strada group
>which seeks to help victims of trafficking, many women are too scared to
>press charges against those who exploit them.
> "I would say it is 60 percent foreigners and 40 percent Czechs...it is
>always so much easier to exploit foreign women," she said, adding there
>were many Ukrainian prostitutes close to the Western border with Bavaria
>and Bulgarians in the north.
> "There is a kind of organised group behind it. What we know is they
>are very organised and very brutal," she added.
> LONG STANDING PROBLEM
> The problem of trafficking in women from Eastern Europe has long been
>recognised.
> With many countries going through wrenching economic problems, some
>women have been lured towards the West with promises of lucrative jobs, not
>just in the sex industry.
> European Union ministers agreed in 1997 to step up cooperation to
>clamp down on the sex slave trade. However, they did not make a binding
>commitment to give alleged victims of trafficking temporary residence
>permits to allow them to testify against the criminals.
> Butterweck says some of the trafficked women end up working in
>atrocious conditions, virtual prisoners of their pimps, ill-fed and
>deprived of any of the substantial sums they earn.
> "Most of the women who come to us have no money, even though they can
>earn 1,000 marks ($579.7) a day," she said.
> In what was then the biggest Czech police operation since the 1989
>fall of communism, police in late 1997 smashed a Bulgarian-run prostitution
>ring in the north of the country.
> CTK news agency reported at the time that police raided buildings in
>the Teplice and Chomutov areas and discovered 45 women, including 40
>Bulgarians, who had been forced to work as prostitutes and held prisoner
>for most of the day.
> The Czech La Strada, which is funded by the European Union and the
>Dutch government, works closely with similar groups in Poland, Bulgaria and
>Ukraine.
> Its local representatives in Bulgaria have put the number of Bulgarian
>women who work abroad at 10,000. Many were lured by advertisements for jobs
>such as baby-sitters, waitresses, models, dancers or home helps. Others are
>just smuggled, La Strada said.
> BULGARIA'S ROLE
> But in this chain of misery, Bulgaria is not just a source. An
>official of the Women's Alliance for Development, a local NGO, said
>Bulgaria also serves as a base for women from Ukraine and other parts of
>the former Soviet Union.
> With forged passports and after a "preparatory period" of several
>months, they are sent to Greece, Macedonia and Turkey.
> Pimps buy and sell women like slaves.
> Butterweck says most of them want to go home but feel it is unsafe to
>do so. She says some women do go home and are simply picked up at the
>airport by the criminals and sent back.
> "The police are interested in these women only when their papers are
>not OK or their visa has expired and then they are counted not as
>prostitutes or potential victims of trafficking but as illegal aliens," she
>said.
> Those seeking to combat the trafficking say the answer lies in
>regulation.
> "When it is not regarded as legal work, nobody is counting it...It
>should be (legalised) because we need state control over it," Butterweck
>said.
> La Strada is also campaigning for women considered as potential
>victims of trafficking to have the right to a short stay in the country and
>have state support during that time.
> Dubi police chief Ryska sits on an Interior Ministry working group
>drawing up legislation on prostitution. He says the women should pay tax
>and have access to health and social services.
> Czech Deputy Interior Minister Jaroslav Kopriva said the problem of
>prostitution was linked with a broader issue of illegal migration, which
>saw at least 45,000 illicit crossings of Czech borders last year.
> "The serious security risk is illegal migration, which is connected
>with other types of organised crime -- trafficking in women, prostitution,
>drugs and other things," he said.
> His ministry has proposed introducing visas for citizens of Ukraine,
>Bulgaria and Romania.
> Kopriva said the Czech Republic's plans to join the European Union, on
>which it has already begun talks, meant it had no choice but to impose the
>visa requirements.
> If the Czech Republic does join the EU, the border will be pushed
>east. So, said Butterweck, will the trafficking problem.
> "It will not be any solution. the only solution is that the EU can
>finally decide on a common policy to fight trafficking."
> ($1-1.725 Mark)
>


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