News/UK: Kosovo sex slaves held in Soho flats

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Subject: News/UK: Kosovo sex slaves held in Soho flats
From: A. Jordan (annj@hrlawgroup.org)
Date: Thu Jul 29 1999 - 10:04:14 EDT


>[This article has been excerpted.]
>
>The Times, London
>July 4, 1999
>
>by Edin Hamzic and Maeve Sheehan
>
>DETECTIVES are investigating the trafficking of hundreds of
>young women as sex slaves from Albania and Kosovo to
>Britain. Some have been sold, some were kidnapped and others
>were tricked with false passports and promises of work.
>
>They are being forced to work in brothels where they can
>earn #1,500 a week or more, often selling sex to 15 clients
>a day. In most cases almost all the money goes to the
>gangsters.
>
>One Albanian ring linked to trafficking women for the
>British sex trade was smashed recently by the Metropolitan
>police vice squad and officers are gathering intelligence on
>others. Albanian criminals are known to rent flats in Soho,
>the capital's red light district; in some of them up to 30
>Albanian women work as prostitutes.
>
>The human trade begins in Tirana, the Albanian capital,
>where a Sunday Times reporter infiltrated the armed
>gangsters. Posing as an "agent" for a businessman who needed
>girls to work in "clubs" in Manchester and Glasgow, he made
>contact with a man who offered "young, pretty, clean and
>clever girls".
>
>Over beer and pizza in a cafe, the man said the women could
>be delivered to Italy and Germany for #830 each. For them to
>be sent to Britain, the cost was a further #1,330.
>
>When the "agent" expressed concern...the girls' families
>might try to reclaim them, the supplier said they had all
>come from villages situated in northern Albania and...the
>families had...been paid off or did not know of the girls'
>whereabouts.
>
>Other girls are victims of the strife in Kosovo. Using
>Albanian underworld contacts in London, a Sunday Times
>reporter was introduced to a Kosovan woman who had been
>forced into prostitution. In a hotel room in Earls Court,
>west London, he found Djemila, a nurse who had fled her home
>in the Drenica region last year, fearing for her life.
>
>"The Serbian army and police were everywhere and many of our
>neighbours were killed or taken away without any reason so
>my father, my mother and my younger brother decided to leave
>our house," said the 23-year-old. "We hid in the mountains
>for 30 days and when we ran out of food we went to Albania."
>
>The family moved to Shijak, near Tirana, where Djemila tried
>and failed to find work. She decided to join her brother in
>Germany and asked a local criminal to help her as she could
>not obtain a visa. He told her this would cost DM6,000
>(#2,000).
>
>"Initially they didn't want to talk to me if I could not
>show them the money, but after a week they changed their
>minds. They suggested they would take me to Germany and...
>my brother could pay for me there. I had no choice. I
>agreed," she said.
>
>Djemila was smuggled across the Adriatic to Italy in a
>speedboat and then spent several days concealed in the back
>of a lorry with another Albanian girl. They were in complete
>darkness with neither fresh air nor sufficient food.
>
>When the lorry stopped and the doors opened, Djemila was
>bundled into a blue car where two men were waiting for her.
>She realised she was not in Germany when she saw a traffic
>sign for London.
>
>"I was taken to a street with beautiful white houses and
>locked in a room in a basement flat," she said. "They gave
>me some pasta to eat. That night I was so afraid...I cried
>myself to sleep." The next morning, a man came to her room
>and told her it would cost another #7,000 to get her from
>London to Germany.
>
>"He told me...I would have to have sex with men for money
>and when I said no, he got very angry and started beating
>me." She was beaten to the point of collapse. When she
>recovered, the first customers were led to her room.
>
>"I didn't know what to do. I was so afraid. They told me
>they would kill me if I didn't do what they told me. They
>kept me as a prisoner in the flat for four months - I was
>forced to work unpaid as a prostitute around the clock.
>
>"I never left the house once, the windows were nailed shut
>and we hardly ever saw sunlight. Now I can go out, but only
>when accompanied by someone."
>
>Threats of violence are all too real: the intermediary used
>by The Sunday Times to contact Djemila was later fatally
>stabbed by a criminal associate in a row over a mobile
>phone.
>
>Scotland Yard believe the trafficking of women from Albania
>and other Balkan states has been exacerbated by the vast
>human displacement caused by war. Many Kosovan women who
>sought refuge in Albania were vulnerable to exploitation by
>local gangsters. In one refugee camp, six women reportedly
>disappeared within a month.
>
>The first evidence of the methods of Albanian trafficking
>emerged late last year when an Albanian woman escaped from a
>flat in Bayswater, central London. She claimed...her pimp,
>Shemsi Gjika, 35, had persistently abused her physically.
>The woman, 23, said Gjika had duped her into travelling to
>London where she had believed she would work as a waitress.
>
>A family friend had introduced her to Gjika and another
>Albanian, Fatmir Gashi, 27, who arranged a false Greek
>passport for her. She told police...within two days of
>arriving at Heathrow she was set to work as a prostitute in
>a Soho flat.
>
>When she finally escaped, police offered her protection and
>a safe house in return for testifying against her captor.
>Gjika has now been convicted of living on immoral earnings.
>Police are still looking for Gashi, who disappeared soon
>after his arrest.
>
>Detective Inspector Paul Holmes, of the London vice squad,
>said Albanian women have been appearing in dramatically
>increasing numbers in brothels in London. Although some were
>aware...they would be working as prostitutes, others had
>been duped and coerced into the sex trade.
>
>"Women are sold a package. The bottom line is to agree to
>come to England. Then they enter into different
>arrangements," he said. "Once they arrive, the deception
>starts. Their passports are seized, they are kept in safe
>houses, they can be closely monitored. Their earnings have
>to be handed over to repay ridiculous debts incurred to get
>them to London. Then you have a situation of virtual
>enslavement."
>
>


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