NEWS

Athens rages against ‘sex slave’ report

Greece reacted angrily yesterday to a US State Department report naming it among 15 countries not doing enough to combat the international trafficking of women for sexual exploitation. Foreign Minister George Papandreou protested to US Ambassador Thomas Miller; government spokesmen charged the report was unfair. The report, made public on Wednesday, places Greece in «Tier 3,» which includes Turkey, Georgia, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Myanmar, North Korea and Sudan. The 15 run the risk of having sanctions imposed on them if they do not improve by Oct. 1 or President George Bush issues a waiver. This «naming and shaming» comes at a particularly embarrassing time for Greece which, as EU president, has led the effort toward a comprehensive migration management policy. Last October, it passed a law cracking down on the traffic in humans. «We are on the other side of the river, not where the report places us,» Papandreou said. «Greece is at a geographical crossroads and this makes it more vulnerable,» he added. «We have an obligation to improve our efforts to solve the problem, not because of this report or because some countries advise us to, but because we have a special responsibility toward these people. But under no circumstances do we accept being put in the category that the report places us.» Miller said he had discussed the issue also with Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos, Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, and Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos. He noted that the law had been passed in October but the presidential decree putting it into effect had not been signed and funds had not been allocated for it to be applied. «We look forward to working quietly with the Greek government on an issue that we all agree is a serious problem,» he told reporters. «Rather than focusing on the messenger, let’s focus on the problem itself.» Asked what sanctions Washington might apply against Greece, a NATO ally, John Miller, director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, asked: «Does it get any military assistance? Does it get any educational or cultural assistance?»