Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Friday, October 06, 2006

People-trafficking in Odessa -- a sea of tears

By Aussiegirl

Thanks to Pawlina, of Nash Holos, for setting up a new blog dedicated to the "Natashas" -- young women and girls from Eastern European countries caught up in the tragic web of human sex trafficking. Be sure and check out The Natashas for updates and background. Pawlina recently had Yahoo remove offensive ads from her site that included marriage and dating services for girls from Ukraine and Russia. These types of ads are covers for prostitution and the sex trades. Yahoo has complied. The tragic human cost of economic underdevelopment in these countries continues to be a problem. Read this article from the Economist.

People-trafficking in Odessa Sea of tears Economist.com

A hub of the modern slave trade
THE ex-slaves are easy to spot among the passengers disembarking from the Istanbul ferry at Odessa. As other women wobble merrily away up the Potemkin steps, the victims of human trafficking look hungry, carry little luggage and, in winter, shiver in their summer clothes.

Odessa grew rich in the 19th century by exporting Russian grain. These days one of its main trades is in flesh. The city is a collecting hub for women from across the former Soviet Union who, unbeknown to them, have been snared by traffickers. From Odessa and elsewhere in Ukraine they are conveyed west to Europe and east to Russia, or south to Turkey and the Middle East. Twice a week ferries from Istanbul bring back those, often ill and pregnant, who have been deported by the Turks.

Katya, who is 19, was deposited in Odessa last week by the Southern Palmira, after a tragically familiar misadventure. Encouraged by a woman she thought was a friend, she went to Istanbul, expecting work in a restaurant (fake advertisements are also used for recruitment). To pay off alleged debts, she says, she found herself turning tricks in a disco. Her friend sold her to a pimp from another town where, she says, she slept six to a room, was threatened when she was too tired for sex, and given money only for food. She was freed by the police (others escape, and some are beaten for trying) and begged the money for her ferry ticket from an ex-client. Another young woman, conveyed to Odessa by the Caledonia, says she grew up in an orphanage, and was taken to Turkey by a woman who promised to adopt her.

It can be hard, says Natalia Savitskaya, of Faith, Hope and Love, an Odessa support group, to persuade these women that anyone wants to help them, rather than entrap them again. The group offers medical, legal and vocational aid, and helps to repatriate non-Ukrainians. There are awareness-raising programmes in schools and at the port and airport, plus a hotline for would-be emigrants. But there are always some, says Ms Savitskaya, who are convinced that it won't happen to them.

Poor, neighbouring Moldova is a big source of women. So is Transdniestria (see article), whose pig-headed authorities refuse to acknowledge the problem. Turkey is said to have become more sensitive to the crime; other receiving countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, less so. And the traffickers are diversifying. Fredric Larsson, of the International Organisation for Migration in Kiev, says that Russia and Poland have superseded Turkey as the top destinations. The slaves are now often males forced to work in construction or agriculture, sometimes with the connivance of local police. Forced begging and organ removal are also money-spinners.

Despite changes to Ukrainian law and a dedicated police unit, trafficking remains a tough crime to prosecute. Even if the recruiters (some of them former victims) are found, their bosses are often abroad. Many of the trafficked are reluctant to testify. Most women who land in Odessa are, like Katya, poorly educated, and often from villages that subsist on remittances from happier emigrants. Many have been abused at home. It isn't only poverty, says Inna Tsobenko of Veritas, an educational group. “They want a beautiful life.”

The combination of good looks, naivety and brutal unscrupulousness is always profitable. Several buildings in Odessa are adorned with reliefs of two young girls with nooses round their necks: they hanged themselves, legend has it, after falling prey to white-slave traders.


At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Aussiegirl, for helping to raise awareness of this travesty.

The sad thing is that most people don't realize how insidious the problem is.

It is not just a matter of men paying for sex with women who willingly become prositutes. Most prostitutes, even call girls, are brutally indoctrinated into the "trade" and are horribly trapped, more often than not under threat of death.

The book by Victor Malarek, The Natashas, tells the whole gory story. It's available through Amazon.

Read it and weep.

At 2:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article. In fact, I linked it to my new blog on Eastern European sex trafficking. Thanks for the post.

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