[Stop-traffic] News/Italy: Illegal immigrants are easy prey for pimps

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Italy: Illegal immigrants are easy prey for pimps
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Sun Jan 03 1904 - 16:30:23 EST


Illegal immigrants are easy prey for pimps
By Ljubomir Milasin
Agence France Presse, July 28, 2000

ROME (AFP) - Italy counts up to 25,000 immigrant prostitutes, according to
an official estimate, but many of them expected to fare better than being
threatened by pimps when they entered the country illegally.

"If you run away, I'll kill you," a young prostitute from Nigeria
remembered the man yelling at her before her frightening experience on the
streets of northern Italy.

She ran away from her would-be pimp anyway and was lucky enough to find
refuge at a home for women who set their minds on leaving the trade.

Oreste Benzi, a priest from the Adriatic sea resort of Rimini, runs an
association finding foster families for former prostitutes.

He has been helping prostitutes, keen on quitting their trade, for years
and has taken his case to Pope John Paul II and Italian leaders, including
President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

"I have talked about the problem of these poor women with the president,"
he told AFP. "They are slaves -- there is no other word -- used by
criminals to make money."

A short man with white hair and in his late 60s, Benzi is often on the road
himself to help the women.

"Criminal gangs kidnap them throughout eastern Europe and around Moscow and
sell them to Albanian gangs and others who will then exploit them," he said.

Women, believed to have the right "market" potential, are sold for about
3,000 euros (dollars) in Bucharest or Budapest, the two principal hubs from
where they are sent to the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro before being
sent on to Italy, Benzi continued. In Italy, pimps were said to pay up to
13,000 euros (dollars).

Benzi claimed to have "saved" more than 1,000 women from the streets over
the last years thanks to his network of family centers.

The Nigerian woman, who found shelter at one of Benzi's homes, is only 21
years old and arrived in Italy after friends promised her that she would be
able to study in Europe.

"But as soon as I arrived, a pimp forced me to hustle on the streets in
northern Italy," she said, still too afraid of revenge to give her name.

"He said 'If you run away, I'll kill you,' but to get away from it all, one
has to have the courage to run away," she added.

She said that she found someone to take her to meet Benzi after watching a
television program on his social work.

"Now I feel protected and if I can, I'll stay in Italy to finally take up
my studies," she added.

A friend, who has the same age and nationality, stood by her silently, too
afraid to speak.

Young prostitutes, often without proper residence permits, are an easy prey
for violent pimps, who will often even threaten their families and stop the
women from seeking help from authorities.

Earlier this month, Italy deported nearly 100 Nigerian immigrants, all
believed to be prostitutes. But as the Nigerian woman noted, not every
prostitute wants to stop selling her body.

According to an official estimate, Italy has between 50,000 and 70,000
prostitutes. Among the immigrants, Nigerians make up the bulk but many also
come from Albania, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.

Eighty percent of them are kept like slaves after being promised legal jobs
or having been abducted in their homelands, according to Social Affairs
Minister Livia Turco.
Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

Please contact me off-list for any questions about Stop-Traffic at
<<morhant@igc.org>>.

Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health
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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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