European Hearing on trafficking

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Subject: European Hearing on trafficking
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Apr 26 2000 - 08:00:28 EDT


   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.

   **********************

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