News/Kosovo: Sex slave trade thrives among Kosovo troops

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Subject: News/Kosovo: Sex slave trade thrives among Kosovo troops
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Tue Feb 08 2000 - 09:59:06 EST

Sex slave trade thrives among Kosovo troops
>From James Pringle
The Times (UK), February 5 2000

PRISTINA -- The presence of Nato-led troops in Kosovo is supporting a new
and sinister white slave trade trade, in which women from impoverished
parts of Eastern Europe are being bought and sold into prostitution.

The women, some as young as 16, are held captive by gangsters, often
Albanian, and sell sexual favours to troops and businessmen in the seedy
nightclubs springing up around Kosovo.

Others smuggled into the region from Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania
and beyond are moved further on, into Albania, across the Adriatic into
Italy and from there to brothels in Western Europe, all the time under the
"ownership" of organised crime. Even children are following similar routes,
sold for adoption or, some say, for body parts.

International agencies trying to combat the trade say that it is expanding
rapidly, despite efforts to rescue women from the clutches of the loosely
organised, mafia-style gangs. They say the numbers are becoming too great
for agencies to manage.

Kosovo was not, in the past, a destination for the East European sex trade,
which began with the collapse of communism in 1991, but the lure of a
45,000-strong army and a large international component has proved an
irresistible draw and bars and nightclubs are springing up across the
province in places such as Gnjilane and Urosevac.

One at Slatina, just outside Pristina and near the HQ of Russian forces, is
the Nightclub International, from which Italian Carabinieri rescued 12
young women last week. Their duties involved dispensing sexual favours, at
about 30 for half an hour, to Russian and American Kfor troops and other
foreign clients.

"These girls who were rescued are terrified and don't understand what has
happened to them," Pasquale Lupoli, chief of mission of the International
Organisation of Migration (IOM) in Pristina, said. "But they are now in a
protected area where security is guaranteed."

The IOM, a little-known Geneva-based governmental agency, was originally
set up to provide travel documents and an assistant network to migrants;
instead, it is engaged increasingly in trying to help the thousands of
girls who are now prisoners in the European sex trade.

Signor Lupoli said that the number of such girls was rising so quickly that
the agency was finding it very difficult to cope. The IOM had also had
difficulties locating a non-government organisation (NGO) to agree to take
care of them. One problem is that the girls are not refugees so do not come
under, say, the UNHCR.

There was, Signor Lupoli said, also some danger. Albanian gangsters are
searching for their "property" and IOM staff have received threats. In
Kosovo, British troops are subject to a strict "no walking out" policy, but
other nationalities' forces, such as the Russians, Americans and Italians,
are less closely monitored. "None of our soldiers goes into these bars
unless on an official mission," one British officer said. "If they did,
they would find themselves on a military charge."

Of the dozen women rescued by the Carabinieri in Slatina, one had been
raped at 14 and all had been maltreated. Like hundreds of similar victims,
they had been sold several times as they were spirited across Balkan
borders from owner to owner.

Greece, too, is a destination for the sex traders. Mirela Stan, 24, of
Romania, and Hitara Antilsova, 29, from Ukraine, were found dead from the
cold on a mountainside near the Greek-Bulgarian border in January. They
perished in an effort to reach their "promised land", a Greek nightclub.

In Kosovo, the streets were empty recently after dark after a panic that
teenage girls were being kidnapped by the Albanian mafia to be sold into
prostitution. Indeed, some have disappeared.

These days, a young East European woman costs from 1,000 to 1,400 to buy.
She first has to pay back her cost, then ostensibly she gets half of what
she makes from prostitution, while the boss retains 50 per cent.
Additionally, the girl has then to pay 10 per cent of her earnings for
board. "Often she ends up with very little or nothing," an IOM official
said. If she is lucky.

Melanie Orhant

Stop-traffic is facilitated, international electronic list
funded by the Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
of the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH)
dealing with human rights abuses associated with trafficking
in persons, with an emphasis on public health and trafficking
in persons for forced labor, including forced prostitution,
sweatshop labor, domestic service and some coercive mail
order bride arrangements.

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