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Wednesday, 24 May, 2000, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Kosovo sex slave trade warning
pristina airport
Pristina: Women are brought in from eastern Europe
By Nicholas Wood in Pristina

UN and aid agencies' staff in Kosovo have been accused of fuelling a trade in forced prostitution.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says the sex trade has mushroomed in the province since the conflict ended.

People are lured to better jobs, and become easy victims of such a trade

Pasquale Lupoli, International Organisation for Migration
But it says many people do not realise that the women involved have been forced into the industry.

Kosovo's international community and Albanians can be seen daily in the bars, cafés and night-clubs that serve as a thin veil for brothels.

Women sold for $500

The IOM has rescued more than 50 women since last October, a figure that Pasquale Lupoli, head of the IOM in Kosovo, says is "just the tip of the iceberg".

IOM research suggests:

  • More than 50% of the women come from the former Soviet republic of Moldova.

  • More than two thirds have never worked in prostitution before.

  • Nearly all have been lured with promises of employment in the West.

Once they have left home, their passports are taken away from them and the women are sold to pimps for between $500 and $1,500 (£750 to £2,250).

Information leaflets about the sex trade are given to employees working for UN agencies.

Entitled You Pay For A Night: She Pays With Her Life, they give some idea of the women's experiences.

Twenty-three-year-old Maria from Moldova describes how she was promised a job as waitress in Italy.

Wider problem

But a few weeks later she found herself working in a bar in Pristina.

She said: "We weren't allowed to go out and we were locked into a small room all day long.

"We were forced to have sex with up to five men a night; the owner also used the girls whenever he wanted to."

Although the UN police have cracked down on many of the clubs concerned, Mr Lupoli said the issue was part a much wider problem.

The trafficking of women is increasing all over the world

Pasquale Lupoli
The IOM estimates that between 200,000 and 500,000 women a year are brought into western Europe and are forced into the sex industry.

Mr Lupoli argued that increasingly strict immigration laws in the West were partly to blame.

"On the one side you have an increasing trend of migration or movement of people.

"On the other side you have less possibilities for legal migration.

"The combination of the two factors makes it possible for this new network.

"People are lured to better jobs, and become easy victims of such a trade."

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See also:

06 May 00 | Europe
Starting over in Kosovo
12 Mar 00 | Europe
Behind the Kosovo crisis
16 Mar 00 | Europe
Kosovo one year on
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