[Stop-traffic] News/Eastern Europe: Eastern prostitution line shows EU border ...

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Eastern Europe: Eastern prostitution line shows EU border ...
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Oct 11 2000 - 11:16:05 EDT

          FEATURE-Eastern prostitution line shows EU border ...

Reuters Ltd.
   FEATURE-Eastern prostitution line shows EU border worries
      By Janet McEvoy
      BERLIN-POZNAN MOTORWAY, Poland, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Natasha, just 18,
decided to celebrate leaving school in the former Soviet state of Belarus
by taking a journey to neighbouring Poland.
      Her "holiday" ended abruptly in the Minsk-Warsaw train, when like many
women from the former Soviet bloc, she was lured by a dealer into the
burgeoning eastern European sex trade.
      After working for two months in a brothel at Poland's Baltic Sea
border with Germany, Natasha is now spending her fourth day plying for
customers at the side of one of Europe's main east-west trade routes, just
minutes inside the Polish border.
      "I wanted to take a holiday," Natasha told Reuters in Russian through
an interpreter, as she squatted at the side of the heavily forested
motorway linking Berlin with the Polish city of Poznan.
      "In the train I met a Polish man, he was a dealer. He took me by taxi
to a hotel. He sold me to two Russian dealers for 5,000 German marks
($2,217). They took my passport."
      Wearing a white tee-shirt, jeans and platform shoes, the petite
Natasha appeared very shy and looked up from the ground only occasionally
during the interview to scan approaching cars and surrounding trees for
fear that her dealer was watching.
      She says she cannot work independently of the dealer, who takes one
half of her earnings -- much of which comes from German men who have hopped
over the nearby border for sex.
      She says she is afraid to go home to Belarus because the highly
organised criminals who took her into the sex trade know her address.
      Five minutes later, as Reuters continued a tour of a forested Polish
border area dotted with brothels, Natasha had moved from her roadside
      For many prostitutes from former Soviet countries like Russia,
Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova the journey westwards ends at border areas in
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, densely lined with brothels, where
rows of prostitutes wave at passing cars and trucks.
      To go any further they would need a visa to enter the European Union,
which operates a border-free accord called the Schengen agreement among its
member states.
      Uta Ludwig, coordinator at the Bella Donna support group for
prostitutes in the German border town of Frankfurt on Oder, said many of
the eastern prostitutes working in the Polish borderland had already been
deported from Germany, and were eyeing a chance to return.
      Some can pay up to 15,000 marks to be smuggled in to the west, she
said, perceiving better pay, and more sympathetic treatment from clients
and police there.
      She says that while only a proportion of women are tricked against
their will into prostitution, many who enter knowingly are miserable with
the conditions, but find themselves imprisoned by circumstances.
      The sex trade highlights a double challenge for the 15-nation EU as it
prepares to admit former communist bloc countries like Poland, the Czech
Republic and Hungary.
      Once they join the EU, the three countries will form part of its
external border, and would have to start enforcing visa requirements on
visitors from former Soviet allies.
      The EU fears that their border control arrangements will not be
efficient enough by the time they join to police the border, and to prevent
an influx of illegal immigration and organised crime.
      The EU says controls on forged documents are insufficient, their
technology is out of date and poorly-paid border guards in those countries
are open to corruption.
      Ludwig said the illegal trade in women trapped against their will into
prostitution would shift eastwards when the EU expanded.
      "The so-called dirty prostitution will go to the other border areas,"
she said.
      "The moment you have a visa regime (in the countries concerned) the
whole problem will be pushed further away," agreed an official at the
International Organisation for Migration in Vienna.
      The EU is trying to help the plight of women trapped in prostitution
against their will by funding projects in a number of east European
countries and is talking to authorities in the countries of origin, trying
to raise their awareness so that in future the Natashas of this world will
not be afraid to go home.
   ($1-2.255 German Mark)
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