Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Allison Dunfield
Globe and Mail Update

Trafficking in women from Baltic States to Nordic countries increases sharply

Women told they are getting ordinary work often sold into prostitution

The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reports that about 2,000 citizens of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania fall victim to trafficking in human beings each year. According to an IOM report scheduled for publication in the Estonian capital Tallinn today, Tuesday, the main problem is the increase in human trafficking to the Nordic countries — especially Sweden and Finland.

About half of the victims live in Lithuania, and the rest are from Latvia and Estonia. Most are women aged 21 to 30, but some underage girls are also involved. The victims are usually sold into prostitution.

Most of the women involved think they are getting ordinary work. They respond to newspaper advertisements which promise fast work abroad, as dancers, waitresses, or domestic help.

"It is obvious that the victims live in a complete information vacuum", says Kristina Mauer of the newly-opened IOM office in Tallinn.

"They have no concept of what a labour contract is. Many give their passports away already in Estonia, after which they have no independent decision-making power", Mauer says.

"Sometimes the intermediary is an acquaintance, or even a boyfriend, who says that he knows about a good job opportunity", Mauer says. "Parents want to send their daughters abroad to work, without any knowledge of the dangers."

In Estonia, the victims of human trafficking are often members of the Russian-speaking community in the northeast of the country.

The IOM opened an office in the Estonian capital Tallinn in mid-January. The material for the organisation's research on human trafficking is based on information received during the past six months from the border guard officials of the Baltic States, as well as those of Finland, Sweden, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

There had been a good deal of human trafficking from the Baltic States to Germany, Spain and Italy already before the share of Finland and Sweden had come into the picture.

Estonian police do not have a special unit that would be specialised in human trafficking. Prosecutions for procurement have been based on investigations by Interpol.

A study published late last year by the Estonian market research institute found that public knowledge about prostitution was minimal.

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Created: February 26, 2002
Last modified: July 9, 2002
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