20,000 sex slaves work in Greece

The sexual exploitation of foreign women in Greece has an annual turnover of 500 million drachmas, involves 20,000 women, mainly from countries of the former Soviet bloc, and caters for an estimated 1 million men, speakers at a conference on the issue said yesterday. The one-day conference, Trafficking in women, was held at the Greek Ombudsman’s Office together with the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section to commemorate Human Rights Day. Trafficking in people for prostitution and forced labor is one of the fastest growing areas of international criminal activity, said US Ambassador Thomas Miller. An estimated 700,000 men, women and children are trafficked each year around the world. I have been told that in Greece upwards of 20,000 women are trafficked annually; more than 1 million men use them. Miller said that increased cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination was critical in this struggle. He praised Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis for establishing an interministerial committee this year to combat trafficking, with a mandate to set up a separate police task force, draft national legislation and start a nationwide anti-trafficking campaign. Dr. Ira Emke-Poulopoulou, an academic expert, said prostitution rackets appeared to have the assistance of some police officers. In February 2000, there was a meeting at the Foreign Ministry on the corruption of employees at Greek consulates in Eastern European countries, she said. There are serious indications that there is a huge illicit trade in Greek passports which ‘legalize’ the importation of prostitutes into Europe, with Antwerp being the general center, she added. Bonnie Miller, the ambassador’s wife, who had worked extensively with foreign-born prostitutes in Bosnia, said that there at least, the trafficked women were not beaten by customers and were provided with condoms, unlike Greece. What can we do for them here? The minimum is not to treat them as criminals but as the victims they are. Provide shelter and individualized care for them. Treat their medical and psychiatric problems… Give them the choice of remaining in Greece and obtaining legal, profitable employment, she said.