NEWS

Law helps squad fight the sex trade

Christina from Romania and Viky from Russia are two of the hundreds of women who have experienced the daily humiliation of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Their suffering at the hands of ruthless Balkan sex traffickers might never have ended had they not broken the strict code of silence imposed by their procurers. They placed their trust in the anti-trafficking squad of Thessaloniki, persuaded by the articles of Law 3064/92 (which provide aid and protection for victims of sexual exploitation), and spoke. Having proved they were victims of sexual exploitation, they are now trying to rebuild their lives. The beneficial provisions of the law are one of the fundamental aspects of the philosophy that underpins the Thessaloniki police headquarters’ anti-trafficking office, which has been in operation for five months. «For a case to be investigated, the women must be free of fear; they must feel secure that they won’t fall back into the hands of their exploiters and they will have the protection they need,» said the squad chief, Lefteris Dourountous. Each case of a woman who has fallen victim to sex traffickers is different. The police officer, as the first person to hear the woman’s story, has one goal: to empty his mind and listen. Only later does he engage in working out how true each story is and how real the people in it are in order to confirm that in front of him there is indeed a woman who fell victim to the sex trade. Electronic archive The investigative process is facilitated by an electronic database which has been created by the office – a pioneering feat for a police unit – while Internet communication with other countries is a future possibility. The electronic archive, continuous training for the unit using European expertise and psychological and social support for the women, coupled with the new legal framework, are the changes the Vice Squad is implementing. Results from the office’s five months in operation are not yet measurable in numbers. But over the past two years, the Thessaloniki Vice Squad has dealt with 200 cases of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Pink ads made up the the majority of the cases (170). Sixty people, who were active in Thessaloniki and other cities of northern Greece, were arrested on serious charges of pimping, sex trafficking and procuring. For this reason, officials are examining setting up more anti-trafficking offices in other cities in Greece where there is increased trafficking and exploitation of women.