Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Human Trafficking Campaign in Prague Seeks Help from Customers of Prostitutes

From the Prague Post:

The Czech Republic has long been a destination for sex tourists from the West.

Brothels line the road in some border towns and hordes of stag partygoers have filed through Prague’s numerous sex clubs.

Now a nonprofit group has teamed with the government to expose a side of the industry some customers would rather not think about — or don’t know about — and to seek help from them.

“The customer might be for the victim of human trafficking the only connecting link to the outside world and the only person who can primarily help her,” said Kristina Klepková of the nonprofit group International Organization for Migration (IOM). Klepková led a three-month program, called Together Against Human Trafficking, which ended last week, to raise awareness of sex slavery in the Czech Republic. The 950,000 Kč ($53,855) initiative, financed by the Interior Ministry, included posters at Prague Ruzyně International Airport and in city metro stations featuring a troubled woman and the phrase “Don’t be afraid to say it for her!” in English. On the poster were numbers people could call anonymously when they suspected human trafficking. Informational postcards were handed out at German and Austrian border crossings.

IOM received 24 e-mails and 30 phone calls during the campaign. The police are following up by investigating all possible crimes, Klepková said, but so far there is no information that a criminal case has been filed. “Usually everything depended on the person who told us about the particular case of human trafficking and on his willingness to tell us the details,” she said.

No Way Out

Although some details may not be known, the general picture of sex trafficking in the Czech Republic follows a pattern, according to IOM information. Women forced into prostitution are often lured here by seemingly legitimate jobs such as cleaning or babysitting. After they arrive they have their personal papers taken away and their will broken by rape, beatings and threats. They are then told that they have a debt to repay and are sold from trafficker to trafficker, thereby increasing the amount owed to impossible levels.

They often come from countries that used to belong to the Soviet Union and the former Eastern bloc, and some are from Vietnam and China.

IOM said that 300,000 to 500,000 people are trafficked every year in Europe. This includes all trafficking, not only sexual slavery. Human trafficking brings its organizers profits comparable with drug dealing or arms trading but without nearly the risk because catching traffickers is more difficult due to the complicated issue of forced compliance among victims, according to IOM.

The crime started in the Czech Republic in the 1990s, when, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, women from Eastern Europe became the chief export to the West European market.

Today the Czech Republic is an attractive target country for traffickers and it can be hard to spot which prostitutes are trafficked, IOM said. “Among all prostitutes, whether on the street, in clubs, or in houses of prostitution, there are women who have been forced into doing this,” IOM information states.

For more information on sexual trafficking in the Czech Republic, visit

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