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Serbo Journal

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Kosovo's sex trade connections

Slave trade that feeds Europe's appetite for sex

Louisa Waugh recounts her harrowing journey along the continent's human trafficking routes

When anybody asks what made me decide to write a book on human trafficking, the only answer I can give is that it was a gut-level response to press reports on modern-day slavery.

They described young women and girls from the Balkans being sold to pimps across Europe and other indebted migrants being bullied and beaten into working long hours for almost no pay.

I was immediately fascinated, appalled and wanted to know more. I contacted Anti-Slavery International, spent a week immersed in its sober south London library and emerged determined to write a book about the experiences of trafficked people.

I visited villages in Moldova that had been emptied of people who had left in search of any kind of paid work; some had almost no young people. Others had become infamous for the number of young women who'd gone missing or the number of men who had resorted to "donating" a kidney for a few thousand US dollars. While a few Moldovans were raking in the cash through crime, the poor were desperately trying to get out of the country.

I interviewed two Moldovan women who had been trafficked. They had left home to work abroad because they needed to support their children. Anna was bought by a Macedonian pimp, sold on so many times she lost track of how many men had "owned" her and ended up in Albania. Olga was taken to Kosovo where she spent two years forced to work as a prostitute in a local bar. She was beaten about the head so savagely she was almost blinded.

I then followed the trafficking routes they had taken. Many Albanian women are trafficked by people they know, often a relative or "friend" who offers them work in Italy or Greece.

Across the mountains, in Kosovo, there is 60% unemployment and small brothels are strung along the back streets of almost every town. There, United Nations and Nato peacekeepers have a lot to answer for. Trafficking escalated as soon as they arrived and though the situation has improved, the brothels I visited were full of women for rent.

Reading a trafficking report in a newspaper is one thing, listening to a woman explaining how she has survived being raped and beaten on a daily basis is profoundly different. Some women will never recover from what they've been through. Others are angry about what has been done to them and want justice.

In the Balkans, many trafficked women are supported in refuges run by fierce and inspiring local women who have dedicated their lives to taking on traffickers within their communities.

These women are titans. They refuse to be cowed by threats or lack of money and deserve far more support than they receive.They talked to me about the chronic poverty, unemployment and domestic violence that "push" women and girls into prostitution. Though some women have been tricked into sex work, many agree to prostitute themselves because they believe they'll be able to choose who they have sex with and make decent money.

Traffickers are ruthless businessmen and women who know that when people live in relentless poverty they make hard choices and take risks. When trafficked women are deported from destination countries such as the UK, they face the very real danger of being immediately re-trafficked.

With this in mind I attempted to unravel the scale of the sex industries in England and Scotland, child trafficking into this country and migrants forced to work in industries such as agriculture, construction and food processing.

The majority of sex workers in Britain are migrant women, though nobody knows how many have been trafficked. Here in Scotland the police admit they have scant intelligence on trafficking into sex work, though women from 28 countries have been identified working in Glasgow saunas and the off-street sex industry is apparently "flourishing".

Bronagh Andrews, who is assessing the scale of trafficking into Scotland for the executive, says that over the past couple of years "a small number" of trafficked women have been given sanctuary by Glasgow social services.

Operation Pentameter recently highlighted that women and girls are being trafficked across the UK. Five trafficked women were identified in Scotland during the operation and four people are being held on suspicion of trafficking offences. If successfully prosecuted they will be the first to be convicted here.

In terms of "rescuing victims", Pentameter was a success. It failed, though, to address the controversy of women being deported if they do not immediately identify themselves to the authorities. Women and girls are still being removed from other parts of the UK even if they have been trafficked.

The Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings guarantees at least 30 days' "recovery and reflection" for people who have been trafficked. This period applies whenever "there are reasonable grounds to believe the person is a trafficking victim".

Under current British legislation it is almost impossible to prosecute a trafficker without a "victim" testifying in court. We need these victims to testify so their traffickers can be locked up and stripped of their assets, making it clear to others that the UK is not a good place for their business.

The very least these women and girls deserve is legal protection, physical sanctuary and an assurance their ordeal is over.

Selling Olga: stories of human trafficking and resistance by Louisa Waugh is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on August 24. The author will be reading at the Edinburgh International Book Festival at 10.30am on Friday


The Largest Heroin Depot is in Kosovo

This comes from same people that captured Spain's terrorists that bombed trains.
Belgrade. The largest heroin depot is in Kosovo, says Dusan Bogosavlevic, director of the Anti-drugs department with the Serbian Office for Combating Organized Crime, Blic newspaper reports. Bogosavlevic explained that there were three different roads for drugs.

"Cocaine from South America reaches two destinations in Europe - Spain and Portugese Island. Then it is transferred to Western European countries", he explained. In his words cocaine from Spain arrives in Serbia and 20% of it remains there, while the rest 80% goes to Italy, Germany, etc.

Bogosavlevic stresses that there were two ways for distribution of heroin - one from Afghanistan through Turkey, and the other - from Afghanistan through the countries from the former Soviet Union to Western Europe. Marihuana is the third kind of drugs that is distributed on Serbian market from Albania through Skadarsko Lake and Montenegro.

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