[Stop-traffic] News/HUNGARY: TRADE IN WOMEN SPURS ACTION BY UN.

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/HUNGARY: TRADE IN WOMEN SPURS ACTION BY UN.
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Sep 18 2000 - 10:07:10 EDT


9-7-00 HUNGARY: TRADE IN WOMEN SPURS ACTION BY UN.
By Karl Peter Kirk in Budapest.
Last November, two 17-year-old girls from the former Soviet republic of
Moldova arrived by train at Bucharest's Gara de Nord railway station. They
had come to take up an offer by the Romanian Government to continue their
training with a full grant at the city's ballet institute. It was the first
time they had been away from home.
They had only taken a few steps from the train when four unknown men in
dark glasses approached them. Within minutes they had been hustled with
coats over their heads into waiting cars.
Eight months later one of the girls was found when police raided a brothel
in Serbia. She told them they had been picked at random by a mafia gang
looking for girls at the station to force into prostitution and had spent
months being "trained" by local mobsters before being sold on to a gang in
Serbia. The other girl has still not been found.
It is cases like this which have finally forced the United Nations to act,
with plans for the first cross-border law on trade in human beings.
Vienna-based UN anti-crime spokesman Sandro Tucci said: "The new
legislation we want to bring in represents the first time ever a truly
international approach will be made to this problem." The initiative
follows on from the introduction this year of the first cross-border
anti-organised crime law.
What happened to the Moldavan dancers is indicative of how organised crime
is following the mainstream economy and becoming increasingly "globalised".
No longer is it just a case of the American mafia cutting deals with family
members in Italy. Old boundaries have broken down. The end of the Cold War
era means that the Americans are now dealing with the Russians, the
Albanians with the Germans, and none of them shows any respect for the
borders of nation states.
Women are often the victims of this new international mafia. The
authorities in the United States estimate that more than one million
females are smuggled across borders every year. Many, like the two dancers,
are simply forced into prostitution. Others naively believe adverts
promising them a life of plenty abroad if they pay to be smuggled across
borders.
When they arrive, they find they have been duped and have to "pay" for the
trip over and over again - and that the only way to do so is to accept the
offer of "work" made by the criminals gangs who took them there.
The extent of the networks behind the trafficking in people and drugs is
almost unimaginable. In Russia alone, an estimated 9,000 criminal
organisations are now in operation compared with about 700 a decade ago. UN
estimates show that about 40,000 Russian businesses operate under full or
partial mafia control.
The mafia is also keen to make use of the opportunities afforded by the
eastward enlargement of the European Union.
Lieutenant-Colonel Zsolt Bodnar, of the anti-organised crime division of
the Hungarian police, said: "The Russian mafia is already present in
Hungary in a big way. They come here and start legitimate businesses and
then just wait because they know that Hungary will soon be a member of the
EU and then their opportunities for expansion will be immense."
While international police organisation Interpol and America's FBI have
expanded their activities to try and cope with the problem, the main
instigation behind dealing with the issue is coming from the UN Office for
Drug Control and Crime Prevention. The office has been drafting the planned
legislation since a special conference in Vienna in April which drew 2,000
delegates from 100 countries, and is close to completing the task.
UN anti-crime boss Pino Arlacci told the gathering: "No state can
successfully act against the growth in international crime alone. We know
that this combination of corruption, money laundering and organised crime -
so-called crony capitalism - can destroy political, economic and social
systems."
The work of the conference is continuing in specialist groups and its
findings will be enshrined in a UN protocol due to be signed in Palermo,
Sicily, later this year.
As part of a UN convention against transnational crime, the protocol is
expected to call on states to enact laws against trafficking in people
where none exist and for laws to be properly enforced where they do.
It will demand that states find the means to effectively co-operate against
international organised crime and allow the victims of people-smuggling to
stay in the countries to which they have been taken, in order to avoid
reprisals at home.
Whether the UN protocol will be taken seriously by some of the central and
east European states most heavily afflicted remains an open question. And
the call for enforcement is likely to come much to late to save at least
one young ballet dancer from Moldova from the pain and humiliation of
forced prostitution.
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST 07/09/2000
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