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Thursday, 19 October, 2000, 00:11 GMT
French prostitutes protest to PM
Many prostitutes are fleeing economic hardship and war
Sex workers in the French city of Lyons have protested to the government over what they say is an invasion of east European women threatening their business.

The state must do something to stop this invasion

Prostitute Evelyne
A group of about 500 prostitutes and transvestites have sent a fax to the prime minister, Lionel Jospin, calling for action to protect their livelihoods.

"This has been going on for a year. We have written to the governor, we have written to the prosecutor, but we have got nothing," said one of the prostitutes, Evelyne, at a news conference. "The state must do something to stop this invasion."

Russian prostitutes
Many eastern European prostitutes are political refugees
She claimed that foreign prostitutes were "younger and fresher", while another prostitute, Michele, said rivals from east European countries such as Albania were taking 80% of business, while being protected by their status as political refugees.

Fleeing war

She said: "If the French Government didn't give them papers, they wouldn't come here.

"How can they get visas when they have no jobs and no homes?"

They said they had turned to Mr Jospin because letters to the police and public prosecutors had gone unanswered.

Prostitutes fleeing war and economic hardship in the Balkans are affecting other European countries.

An estimated 500,000 women and girls - most of them from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union - are entering western Europe each year to become prostitutes, said a UN report last year.

An Albanian mafia speedboat with its human cargo heads for Italy
An Albanian mafia speedboat with its human cargo heads for Italy
This report said trade in women was a $7bn business and a key part of a worldwide boom in organised crime.

It estimated that 15,000 Russians and eastern Europeans work in the red-light districts of Germany.

Six out of 10 sex workers operating in Britain's inner cities are illegal immigrants, according to a police survey last year.

In Italy it is estimated that there could be more than 40,000 foreign prostitutes on the streets - and the numbers are increasing.

Many are from former communist countries such as Albania where mafia bosses cash in on the lucrative human trafficking business.

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See also:

02 Jun 00 | UK
Sex slaves 'trapped in UK'
20 Jan 98 | From Our Own Correspondent
Sex for sale as East meets West
02 Aug 00 | Europe
Italy's sexual slave trade
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