News/Europe: TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN ON THE INCREASE

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Subject: News/Europe: TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN ON THE INCREASE
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Mar 27 2000 - 13:04:48 EST


           RIGHTS-WOMEN: TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN ON THE INCREASE

OTC 3-2-00 2:02 AM

BRUSSELS, (Mar. 1) IPS - Every year hundreds of thousands of young women
and girls from less-developed regions are lured with misleading promises
of conventional employment 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 Organization 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 harmonized."
    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 organized Russian and Albanian criminal networks.
    In December 1997, the Council of Europe launched a three-year "Police
and Human Rights" program in which more than 35 of its 41 member states
are participating.
    The program 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 Center 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 specialized 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 Organization 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
organizations (NGOs) in providing greater protection for victims.


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