NEWS

Regional center for sex trade victims

A regional reception and support center for women who have been forced into prostitution will be set up in Thessaloniki, participants at an international conference in the northern port city agreed on Saturday. But no details were made public on when the center, which will cater to victims of the sex trade from all of southwestern Europe, will open. The minister for Macedonia and Thrace, Giorgos Paschalidis, who addressed the conference organized by the Doctors of the World international humanitarian group, expressed support for the project, observing that an estimated 300,000 women from central and eastern Europe were forced to work as prostitutes in the West last year alone. The overwhelming majority of these women come from the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Paschalidis said that foreign women make up some 60 percent of sex trade victims in Greece. Most enter the country illegally – many over hazardous mountain paths – while only a small minority possess residence permits. Thessaloniki is one of the main hubs of the sex trade in Greece. The minister also spoke of the need for legislative changes in Greece to tackle the problem more efficiently, in combination with a crackdown on police corruption. Police officers and border guards often turn a blind eye to the sex trade, or even collude with gangs organizing the highly lucrative trafficking in women. Speaking at the same conference on Saturday, the new US ambassador to Greece, Thomas Miller, described the sex trade as a modern form of slavery, and appealed for states to cooperate with non-governmental groups in addressing the problem.