Tracking the modern slave trade - human trafficking in central europe

foto: CTK

Up to a million people, most of them young women and girls are victims of human trafficking each year - according to the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime. Many of the victims are lured with false promises of jobs and wealth but end up exploited for sex and labour. Central European countries are both a destination and source of women who are trafficked. Vienna is home to the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, two organizations working hard to fight human trafficking.

Photo: CTK
This music is from a United Nations television campaign, which encourages the public to report trafficking. The images show a fearful young woman - entering and leaving an expensive hotel. And then a kindly stranger helping her. It's hoped the television spots will encourage the public to turn in traffickers.

The Vienna-based United Nations office on drugs and international crime says each year around one million people, fall victim to the human traffickers. Kevin Bales is a consultant to the United Nations office for drug control and crime prevention.

"Around the developing world you have trafficking into prostitution, trafficking into and enslavement into domestic service - this is very common - into agriculture but also into what you could call sweat shops, some form of forced factory work often in little underground factories"

Not far from the UN quarters, the Vienna Gürtel - the beltway that encircles the Austrian capital - is not only heavy with road traffic but also human traffic. Here the neon sign Bar is a euphemism for brothel.

In the many of these brothels - there are prostitutes from Asia and Eastern Europe - some here voluntarily - but some are victims of organised criminal gangs who smuggle them into the European Union.

Jyothi Kanics is an adviser on human trafficking to another Vienna based institute, the Organisation for security and co-operation in Europe.

"In most cases the potential migrant knows they are taking some risks but I think they can't envision how difficult it will be to be in a foreign country, not to speak the language, to not have their community, so it's like the tip of the iceberg - they don't see the whole picture when they take a decision."

The police forces of Eastern Europe are facing an uphill struggle in the fight against trafficking. But the OSCE is also helping to re-train police. Tim de Vecchio a retired American policeman is experienced in investigating government corruption and organised crime. He's been brought in to help East and Central European governments get to grips with human trafficking...

"Criminals move information at the speed of email, they move money at the speed of a wire transfer, they move people at the speed of a jet liner and I think a lot of police agencies are still in the industrial age, where we're trying to fight this problem with technology belonging to another era."

It's slowly being recognised that Europe's police are not coping with this modern slave trade. And that laws against human trafficking are too weak and penalties inadequate. The United Nations is urging states to sign up to a treaty, which will deploy more resources to catching and punishing the perpetrators. - And give the urgently needed help to their victims.