NEWS

Despite arrests, many traffickers in Greece still go unpunished

The US State Department 2005 Trafficking in People report notes that «Greece is a destination country for women, men and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor.» The report notes that there have been claims that some police officers were involved in trafficking rings or have taken bribes from traffickers. The report goes on to say that in the first half of 2005, the Greek police laid 162 charges related to trafficking and found 79 victims of trafficking, though it is believed that the number of people trafficked during that period was much higher. «In January,» notes the report, «a man was convicted of trafficking in Kavala and sentenced to 12 years in prison and a fine of 52,625 euros. By the end of the year he was out on bail.» Improvement The latest report from the State Department says the human rights situation has improved in Greece, though serious problems still exist. One of these is that although the government has reported an increase in the number of convictions for trafficking crimes, most traffickers have been released on appeal, including traffickers who have already been sentenced to terms of imprisonment. In 2005, according to the State Department, the Greek government investigated 60 trafficking cases and arrested 202 suspects. The number of convictions increased by nine and the sentences handed down ranged from one to 12 years. But the government could not guarantee that any of those traffickers actually served their terms. Even though the government reported that more than 100 of those accused of trafficking are awaiting trial, in 2005 Greek courts set most of them free. The report also noted that the Greek government had not given a satisfactory reply to claims that certain Greek diplomats abroad had facilitated trafficking by issuing visas without getting full documentation or conducting face-to-face interviews with women who were later recognized as victims of trafficking. The team that drafted Law 3064/200 on trafficking had originally included a sentence of 12 months imprisonment for clients who had sex with trafficked women, but this met with strenuous opposition and was not included in the final bill. The principal objection was that the provision would not be applied to the provinces, where police officers might have to arrest their own relatives and friends who frequented women who had been trafficked and forced into prostitution.