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Serbia: White slaving on increase

Publish Date: 24 Jun 2004

Source: AFP/B92

White slaving on increase, says OSCE

BELGRADE -- Thursday -- The abduction, torture and forced sexual abuse of trafficked women and children is a growing menace in Serbia and is happening at times with the participation of police, an independent report said Wednesday. 

The report published in Belgrade was commissioned by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and is the first to look at the scourge of human trafficking in the former Yugoslav republic. 

It found that Serbia had become a major transit route and source for women and children destined for the sex trade in the Balkans and Western Europe. 

"The results of this research show that beyond doubt trafficking in women is widely prevalent in Serbia," the report conducted by female researchers from the Victimology Society of Serbia said. 

"Serbia is first of all a transit country but also a country of origin and temporary destination of victims of trafficking in people." 

It said most foreign victims came from Moldova, the Ukraine and Romania but that the number of Serbians involved was believed to be "much higher". 

Based on interviews with 123 experts and five victims, the report found that more than 1,000 women, children and men had been trafficked in or through Serbia, although this was believed to be only the tip of the iceberg. 

"Trafficking in women is a form of organised crime and therefore its characteristics include obscurity, mobility and linkage with legal actors," the report said. 

It stressed that the perpetrators had significant links with "police and various other legally registered organisations" as well as other types of organised crime. 

Contributing factors included poverty, migrations caused by the wars of the 1990s, militarisation and the related expansion of prostitution, and widespread corruption. 

The report included graphic first-hand accounts from police and aid workers describing the trafficking routes from Bulgaria and Romania, and the abuse meted out to women and children who fell victim to the trafficking gangs. 

Many women responded to advertisements for work as waitresses or models in the West or to false offers of marriage, only to find themselves enslaved and forced into prostitution. 

"They are sold and resold; their travel documents are taken from them; their freedom of movement is restricted; they are physically, mentally and sexually abused; they are forced into drug or alcohol addiction," it said. 

It said Roma women and children were common targets for traffickers, as were the mentally ill, homeless and orphaned. 

Trafficked children were usually sold into prostitution or used in begging rackets, particularly on the streets of Italy. 

Victims who tried to escape from their captors reported brutal punishment. 

The report quoted psychiatrist Zoran Ilic who described how a Moldovan woman was locked in a "private prison" by a man she thought was her boyfriend. 

"She had believed that her pimp was her boyfriend. Then she was beaten for the first time and forced into sexual intercourse," he said. 

"After the sexual intercourse she had a nervous breakdown and jumped through the window. She broke both her legs but managed to report the case to police."

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