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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 17:49 GMT
UN warns of human trafficking
Woman cowering from attacker: Still from the UN video
Many women end up in the sex trade
The United Nations has released the second in a series of videos designed to raise global awareness about human trafficking.

The short film warns potential victims that contracts for work abroad often turn out to be modern-day slavery.

The UN also hopes to alert the general public and the criminal justice system in destination countries of the crime.

It has been backed in the UK by the Metropolitan Police, who helped the UN come up with a strategy to tackle this aspect of organised crime.

Inspector Chris Broome told BBC News Online there were examples of human trafficking in all of the UK's major cities.

He said the majority of the "hundreds, possibly thousands" of victims were women, and the majority of these came from eastern European countries such as "Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Lithuania".

Growth trade

He also cited the cases of many women from south-east Asia, who pay a fee of about 20,000 to come to the UK to join the sex trade.

He said they work for 14 or 15 hours a day for six months to pay off the debt and get their passport back.

Then, he said, the traffickers hit them with a bill for the expenses they have supposedly run-up during their time in the UK - and the vicious circle continues.

The UN says trafficking is one of the fastest-growing areas of organised crime - with many traffickers moving from the more risky, less lucrative drugs trade.

It estimates that more than 700,000 people are smuggled from their home countries each year.

When they reach their destination, victims' documents are usually taken and they end up being used as forced labour or sexually exploited.

Threat of violence

Typical areas of work include domestic service, prostitution and forced labour in fields or factories.

They may be forced to pay off alleged debts under the threat of violence.

The UN says women and girls are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.

Russian trafficking victims working in the sex industry in Germany, for example, reportedly earn $7,500 monthly - of which the trafficker takes at least $7,000.

Europol, the European law enforcement agency, estimates the human trafficking industry is worth several billion dollars a year.

Stiffer sentences

Some European countries have acted to clamp down on the sophisticated criminal networks that smuggle people.

Sweden has said it will make human trafficking for sexual purposes punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and Britain says it intends to increase the maximum penalty from 10 to 14 years.

An earlier video produced by the UN on sexual slavery was released in January 2001 and has been shown in 35 countries.

Both videos were made by the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP).

The new one, of 30 seconds and 60 seconds, has been produced in nine languages.

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