RIGHTS-WOMEN: Trafficking Of Women On The Increase

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Subject: RIGHTS-WOMEN: Trafficking Of Women On The Increase
From: by way of Melanie Orhant (debra@oln.comlink.apc.org )
Date: Wed Mar 15 2000 - 19:00:53 EST


RIGHTS-WOMEN: Trafficking Of Women On The Increase By Brian
Kenety

BRUSSELS, March 1 (IPS) - Every year hundreds of thousands
of young women and girls are trafficked from less-developed
regions to work in brothels and nightclubs in Western
Europe, according to top European crime-fighters.

They say the women work for little or no money under cruel,
inhumane and violent conditions.

At a public hearing before the European Parliament last
week, experts from the international police force, Interpol,
and its European partner, Europol, agreed that while it was
difficult to collect statistical data in this area,
trafficking was a growing phenomenon.

The United Nations' Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights defines trafficking as when someone is
persuaded, tricked or forced into leaving their country for
the promise of a 'better life' only to end up in forced or
slavery-like conditions.

As many as 500,000 persons are trafficked into Western
Europe each year. In addition to the traditional flow from
Third World destinations, experts spoke of an alarming
increase in the number of victims coming from Eastern
Europe.

Marco Gramegna, head of counter-trafficking services within
the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), told the
hearing that trafficking should be approached not as an
immigration issue, which has been the practice in many
countries, but as "a human rights violation within our
borders."

He said apart from shelter and protection in safehouses,
rescued victims need extensive guidance from social workers
in order to voluntarily return home and reintegrate into
society.

However, if the victims lack valid travel documents, as is
generally the case, they are primarily regarded as
"irregular immigrants" who are very often subject to
deportation in many receiving countries.

In some countries, this status excludes them from access to
legal assistance and medical care.

Furthermore, even though they are entitled to safeguards
under the legal system of the receiving country, most
trafficking victims are hesitant to report crimes committed
against them, says the IOM.

But first, the victims must break free.

In order to avoid detection by local police, criminal groups
frequently move trafficked women working as prostitutes
across international borders, 'selling' them to other gangs.

Traffickers profit from non-existent or relatively lax
sanctions in many parts of the world, or, as in Europe, from
an insufficient level of coordinated and effective measures
across state borders.

"We lack an action plan at the European level: It exists on
paper, but not in practice," Europol Deputy Director Dr
Willy Bruggeman told legislators, stressing that 'the laws
(of European Union member states) should be compatible, if
not harmonised."

He said refusal of some police to work with their
counterparts from other member states compounded the
problem, as did a lack of controls at points of departure.

Up to 60 percent of prostitutes in certain Western European
countries are controlled by organised Russian and Albanian
criminal networks.

In December 1997, the Council of Europe launched a
three-year 'Police and Human Rights' programme in which more
than 35 of its 41 member states are participating.

The programme manager, Anita Hazenberg of the Network of
European Policewomen, said that police in the transit
countries of Central and Eastern Europe often gave
insufficient priority to trafficking, as they felt the
problem and the women were 'moving on'.

The EU's executive European Commission and the United States
in Nov financed IOM information campaigns in Bulgaria and
Hungary to alert the public of the dangers trafficked women
faced when living or working abroad. The IOM has carried out
like campaigns in Albania, Romania and the Philippines.

But Central and Eastern European countries remain countries
of origin, transit and, increasingly, destination for
trafficked victims.

A report by the Global Survival Network said that 50,000
women leave Russia every year, while a recent study in the
Netherlands showed that 75 percent of the trafficked women
interviewed were from Central and Eastern Europe.

A 1998 report by the Centre for Equal Opportunities found
most victims interviewed in Belgium come from (in descending
order) Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia.

Victim's rights groups say that trafficking tends to worsen
in conflict or post-conflict situations: traffickers exploit
the situation, in particular of the fact that many persons
are in vulnerable situations, undocumented and separated
from their families.

Jan Austad, a specialised officer from Interpol, said that
before the war in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, gangs of
ethnic Albanians abducted or lured women to Italy, for
clients there and to points north. After the war, the gangs
set up brothels to cater to the international armed forces
stationed there.

"Some countries tolerate their armed forces visiting
(Kosovo) brothels - filled with women who were more than
likely trafficked," he said, noting Western Europe's "lack
of political will" to tackle the problem.

The Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe
(OSCE) last year agreed an action plan that seeks to
strengthen the legal framework to punishing the traffickers
and assist governments and non-governmental organisations
(NGOs) in providing greater protection for victims.
(END/IPS/bk/sm/00)


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