NEWS

Balkan countries undertake to clean out their own nests

In a huge, coordinated operation, «Mirage 2004,» due to take place from the end of May to the beginning of June, police forces of the Balkans are to target sex-trafficking gangs throughout the countries of Southeastern Europe. As part of the Southeastern Europe Cooperative Initiative (SECI), trained police officers, working in a joint action network, will pick specific targets (entertainment centers, bars, etc.) where trafficked women are prostituted, whether by direct or indirect violence. Ten Greek officers of the anti-trafficking office and equivalent units in 12 countries of Southeastern Europe (including Ukraine, which is participating for the first time, although not a member of SECI), will engage in sweeps of criminal networks for 10 days throughout Southeastern Europe, from Albania and the former Yugoslavia, to Moldova, Hungary and Ukraine right up to the borders of Turkey. «Each country, on the basis of its problems, will choose their own targets and, if necessary, will be able to have immediate access to information from other countries that would facilitate examining the case in depth,» a Greek police officer, part of the SECI drive, explained. The name of a procurer, for example, which they may learn from a prostituted woman in this country, could unravel a whole ring of sex traffickers as information is cross-checked with other information from judicial authorities in Southeastern Europe. Nevertheless, there are problems. There is no harmonization of laws in these countries, «where democracy is still in its infancy,» the police officer pointed out. On the other hand, some legal provisions in other Balkan countries facilitate investigation, such as waiving restrictions on the release of personal data.