News: Slave Trafficking in Poland

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Subject: News: Slave Trafficking in Poland
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Thu Apr 22 1999 - 10:27:04 EDT

Not exactly trafficking for forced labor. But thought some of you might be


>Slave Trafficking
>By Joanna Krupa and Rafal Pasztelanski
>Zycie Warszawy (in Polish), April 10, 1999
>They dream of a better life. They want to forget their poverty, war, and
>They come from small villages of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and
>Somalia. One day a man from the organization pays a visit to them. He shows
>a film about life in Western Europe or excerpts from newspapers. He knows
>very well what they dream about. However, their dream is expensive. The
>gate to paradise opens for $5,000. There are many volunteers, however.
>Entire families declare readiness to leave. In most cases, they already
>have a relative living in the West. Then, they know what riches await them
>in Europe. The monthly payment for cleaning streets in Europe is higher
>than the yearly earnings in their own country.
>They sell everything before they leave. They borrow money from their
>neighbors and promise to return it from their salaries in the "better
>world." Then, a few-months-long horror begins. Its destination is either
>life in the idealized country or deportation. Their "benefactors" are not
>interested in what happens to their "commodity." If they are lucky, it is
>all right. If they are caught it is their business.
>Not a Man but a Troll
>To the traffickers they are not men, but "trolls," "heads," or "commodities."
>The trafficking of people to the West brings profit of hundreds of millions
>of dollars. This money is paid into international accounts of organized
>crime groups. Legal punishments for the trafficking of people are lower
>than for drug or alcohol trafficking, and the profits are incomparably
>higher. In Poland this kind of illegal activity is organized by gangs
>headquartered near Warsaw.
>"They take over immigrants from the countries of the former Soviet Union or
>Slovakia, and hide them in "refuge camps," where they await instructions
>from their guide," says an officer from the Department for Organized Crime
>at the National Police Headquarters.
>The investigation conducted on a group of 29 traffickers detained in March
>revealed the scale of this phenomenon. The Prosecutor's Office brought
>charges against them for trafficking over 3,800 foreigners. The
>investigation continued for five years in order to accumulate evidence. The
>police estimate that the traffickers earned $10 million. Poles were paid
>according to a "rigid" price list:
>"Agents" from Warsaw: from $500 to $1,000.
>Polish originators: from 170 marks to 600 marks.
>"Refuge camp" owners: from 12 zlotys [Z] to Z30 per day.
>Bus drivers transporting foreigners from the Warsaw district to the border
>along with Germans transporting them across the border: Z100.
>Drivers taking over immigrants on the German side of the border: 100 marks.
>This price list reveals the cost of the journey across Poland to the
>"Western paradise." However, before they reach our country, they have to
>get through the territory of the former Soviet republics.
>An investigation conducted by the Border Guard [SG] discloses that refugees
>from Asia are first transported to the countries of the former Soviet
>Union, where they wait in "refuge camps" for the next phase of their
>journey and are instructed. Groups of five or six are formed there. As a
>rule, during the first stage of their journey they are equipped with legal
>documents and visas of the country of their destination. In "refuge camps"
>these documents are taken away from them, and further journey toward the
>Polish border is illegal. This is supposed to make identification more
>difficult in case they are detained by the Polish SG. It is almost a
>miracle to collect evidence against traffickers, because they usually
>remain outside Poland.
>Small Fry Are Caught
>"If anybody is caught red-handed, it is usually a guide, who is only a
>small fry," says Col. Wlodzimierz Warchol, spokesperson of the SG chief
>commander. "Detained immigrants are interrogated and treated as suspects.
>Therefore, they do not want to cooperate with police. They usually provide
>false identities and personal data indicating that they are minors."
>Foreigners are transported by truck or train in closed carriages used for
>the transport of animals, and with very little to eat. The journey may even
>last three months. It all depends on whether the "agents" have bribed
>certain people or not. It is more risky to transport people by sea.
>Immigrants are often thrown into the sea by the crew of the trafficking
>ship if the SG appears. Sometimes refugees themselves leave the ships lying
>in the roadstead too long.
>"During a journey covering thousands of kilometers, immigrants are often
>deceived, deprived of food, and humiliated," Col. Warchol maintains. Polish
>bus drivers for example steal their money and valuables and unscrupulously
>leave them in a middle of a forest near the border, if a "guide" does not
>come to take them over.
>Capitalist Precedence
>The trafficking of people developed in our country at the beginning of 1990's.
>At that time, Poland began to have problems with migration from the Balkan
>countries (Romania and Bulgaria), the post-Soviet countries (Ukraine,
>Russia, and Armenia), and Asiatic countries (Pakistan and Vietnam). The
>number of people detained by the SG attempting to cross or actually
>crossing the Polish border indicates the scale of illegal migration. In
>1990 3,000 were detained. The next year, the number increased by four
>times. The culmination point was in 1992 when the SG registered about
>33,500 detainees.
>In 1994 organized crime groups with international connections took interest
>in illegal migration. Migration ceased to be a spontaneous escape from
>poverty and war. A growing number of Asians were tempted by images of high
>profit and a comfortable life presented by professional "touts." In 1997,
>the SG detained 215 groups of totaling 4,000 illegal immigrants, which was
>46 groups more than in 1996. The majority of them came from Asia, Sri
>Lanka, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh in particular. One hundred four
>"assistants" were detained as well. The majority of them came from Poland,
>the EU countries, and Arab countries.
>Trained Specialists
>Traffickers have at their disposal great financial means, high quality
>communication equipment, detailed maps, night-surveillance equipment, fast
>cars, and guards. It is the task of the "assistants" to keep the territory
>and system of border protection under watch, and to find comfortable places
>for illegal border crossings. Guides and means of transport are hired.
>Traffickers give instructions concerning the route and time of border
>crossing. It is also their duty to arrange support on the other side of the
>border. In case of detention, illegal immigrants are instructed to identify
>themselves as citizens of countries that are considered dangerous or ones
>to which deportation is difficult. The scale of illegal migration through
>Poland is confirmed by data collected by police and the SG.
>"There were times when 2,400 illegal immigrants sought refuge in illegal
>camps near Warsaw. They came from Ukraine. Foreign originators of this
>procedure were angry that there was a "jam" in the takeover of people," we
>read in the report of the Lubuski SG Department.
>"Refuge camps," of which there are at least 200 in Warsaw district, admit
>50 people each time. Lately, however, illegal immigrants have been kept in
>former factories. Police have even found camps in which 400 immigrants were
>hidden. Regardless of their size, conditions are the same in all of the
>camps. Dirt, a lack of space, and simple meals usually consisting of bread,
>water, and sometimes rice.
>"In a small room of 20 square meters, 25 foreigners were cramped. They were
>starving and stinking. Windows were covered with planks. A bucket, which
>was to serve as a toilet stood in a corner." In this way a policeman from
>Praga Poludnie described a discovered camp. "They pointed to their mouths.
>At first we thought that they wanted cigarettes. When we looked them in the
>eye, we understood that they were hungry."
>During interrogation, it turned out that they had been waiting for an
>"agent" for more than a week. They did not know that he was arrested by the
>police. They ate only the remnants of the food they had taken for the
>journey. The apartment owner came every day. However, she only came to
>check if the door was closed.
>Every year new camps are found. They do not differ from one another. Only
>the address is different. Tens of inscriptions are on the walls. Nobody
>cares to translate them. When the refugees leave their camp, they set out
>on the most dangerous part of their journey. They have to cross the border
>to paradise.
>Fisherman's Way
>"Traffickers use all possible means to transport 'heads' across the border.
>Foreigners cross the border at night. They cross rivers in groups of five
>or six people," says an officer from the National Police Headquarters. The
>most popular method is a so-called "fisherman." One gangster sits by the
>river and fishes. He usually chooses a place from which it is possible to
>observe the SG movements. Then he informs the rest of the group about the
>best possible moment to cross the border. He uses a mobile phone or a
>CB-radio. Meanwhile, immigrants, of whom there may be up to 20, wait in the
>bushes. Sometimes, it happens that it is too frosty and they freeze to
>death. Sometimes it takes weeks to find their bodies. There must be
>casualties on the way to freedom.
>The trafficking of people is becoming an increasingly controversial issue
>in Poland. Our future partners from the EU are worried that our borders are
>not tight. However, this problem will possibly be solved. In line with the
>administrative reform in Poland, a migration office will be created. Posts
>and control offices are being equipped with indispensable equipment, modern
>means of communication and transport. Road and rail checkpoints use
>equipment for detecting people in cars and containers. The eastern border
>has been tightened by means of helicopters and Wilga aircraft. The SG is
>assisted by soldiers from the Wisla Military Units of the Ministry of
>Internal Affairs and Administration.
>The eastern and southeastern parts of the border constitute the most
>serious problem. Watchtowers are 45 km apart (in the West a distance of 15
>km separates them).
>Holes in the Border
>Last year the SG detained about 7,000 foreigners who illegally crossed the
>border. The majority of immigrants were detained on the Polish-German
>border (4,323 people). On our southern border 2,004 people were detained,
>and in the east 562 people. Compared with previous years, the number of
>illegal crossings was reduced by 40 percent.
>According to an ordinance of the minister of internal affairs, a foreigner
>visiting Poland has to prove that he can afford such holidays. A customs
>duty officer may demand a foreigner to show Z100 for each day of stay. A
>tourist may also have exchangeable currency, credit cards, traveler's
>checks, or bank certificates. Only an invitation from a Polish citizen
>exempts people from this duty. Ukrainians are the only group satisfied with
>the new regulations. Earlier they had to possess $50 for each day. Borders
>are also to be tightened thanks to new invitation forms, visas with water
>signs glued to passports, convex print, or paints visible in ultra-violet
>light. About 150,000 to 200,000 [figure as published] foreigners visit
>Poland every year.
>Out of 217 border checkpoints in Poland, only a few comply with EU
>standards. The remaining ones are merely barracks and barriers, through
>which over 209 million people cross our border. Too little money is
>invested in checkpoints. There is a shortage of posts, rooms, and equipment
>allowing customs officers to perform their duties properly. Customs
>officers in Kukuryki control trucks on a mound, and in Malaszewice on the

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