Monday, February 7, 2011

Romania a global center for human trafficking -

By David Batstone, Special to CNN
February 7, 2011 1:21 p.m. EST
  • David Batstone: Romania is major center for buying, selling slaves for EU nations
  • People promised jobs but sold into prostitution, factory working, begging, he writes
  • Police turn a blind eye to the trade, he says, nonprofits can't solve problem alone
  • Along with a just rule of law must come an effort to create jobs in Romania, he writes

Editor's note: David Batstone is a professor of business at the University of San Francisco and the co-founder and president of Not For Sale, which fights human trafficking and slavery.

(CNN) -- Romania has become a major transit for the sale of people into the European Union. Victims as young as 12 years old are trafficked into Romania from destinations as far-reaching as Honduras, Afghanistan, the Congo, and China. Once they reach Romania, many of these victims are assigned for passage beyond into Western Europe.

While Romanian law officially prohibits all forms of human trafficking, the country's strategic geographic location -- a crossroads between East and West -- makes it a source, transit and destination country for the people trade. The country's 2007 admission into the European Union brought more relaxed border regulations and enhanced its attraction for international human traffickers.

The U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report of 2010 found that organized crime networks also target Romanian citizens for export to other European countries. Traffickers commonly use fake identifications and bribe border personnel to bring victims into the country. They then force the victims to work in agricultural and factory production, prostitution, modeling for pornography and street begging.

The agency I run, Not For Sale, has identified Romania as an international hot spot for modern slavery. Our team operating on the ground in this Eastern European country intervened in nearly 140 trafficking cases last year alone.

It's tragic to see young girls sold in an Amsterdam street and then follow their journey back to a humble village in Romania.
--David Batstone

Romanian authorities say that during the past two years, a Lebanese businessman, Hassan Awdi, persuaded 13 Honduran men and women to travel to Romania under the auspices of helping them find a job. Upon entering the country, officials say, Awdi confiscated their passports and forced them to work without pay for a factory of which he is part owner. The Hondurans eventually managed to escape their trafficker, yet found themselves in a foreign country without identification, resources, or shelter. Not For Sale intervened and helped the victims receive favorable treatment from the Romanian courts and government. The victims recently were repatriated home to Honduras. Awdi was charged with multiple offenses, including human trafficking, but has not yet gone to trial.

By and large, local police turn a blind eye to these crimes and social services for the victims are practically nonexistent. In 2009, the Romanian government minimized the role of the country's principal anti-trafficking arm -- the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons -- and allocated scant federal funding to provide victim services and anti-trafficking prevention programs.

The burden for addressing human trafficking therefore falls mostly on poorly funded nonprofits. Not For Sale Romania, for example, provides survivors with shelter, medical and psychological services, as well as educational and vocational opportunities. In the best-case scenario, our team reintegrates the survivors into their families, as long as they are not exposed to the risk of being re-trafficked.

Local police turn a blind eye to these crimes and social services for the victims are practically nonexistent.
--David Batstone

Last month I personally tracked the slave trade across Europe. I started my investigation with the women for sale in the showroom windows of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. It's tragic to see young girls sold in plain sight in an Amsterdam street and then follow their journey back to a humble village in Romania.

My key source on the ground was the Scarlet Cord, a nonprofit that has been building relationships with sex workers in the red-light districts of the Netherlands since 1987. Their field research reveals that 75% of the sex workers in the Netherlands at the moment originate from the Eastern European countries of Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria. Hungary is also one of the more recent member states of the European Union.

The influx of young girls from Eastern Europe can be directly attributed to the lack of job opportunities at home and the easy access to wealthier European markets. That formula makes young girls an easy target for traffickers who promise lucrative jobs in London, Rome or Amsterdam. The lack of government and police priority on human trafficking across Europe also allows the trade to flourish.

For government and police authorities in Europe to start identifying trafficking victims for who they are -- no longer labeled as illegal immigrants or prostitutes -- will be a necessary step forward. Whenever the poor and vulnerable do not have access to legal justice, they will be exploited. That's a maxim as true in Europe and the United States as it is in India and Kenya.

Hand in hand with a just rule of law must come an entrepreneurial effort to generate real job opportunities in Romania. That economic stimulation is unlikely to come from a top-down grant of financial aid to the national government. More sustained results will be achieved by investments in small- and medium-sized enterprises that can demonstrate a credible business model and generate real jobs for Romanians.

Romania's human trafficking problem does not stay home; it is Europe's crisis as well. The same people who run the people trade are likely candidates for other forms of nefarious crimes that threaten national security. Indeed, the security of all of Europe depends on innovative solutions to what may seem as intractable problems. As long as we keep repeating the same protocols, we are sure to get the same dire results.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of David Batstone.

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  1. Mr. David Batstone to put a little atention here:

    1. The Prostitutes' Education Network wrote "Prostitution in The United States - The Statistics," posted on its website (accessed Mar. 19, 2007), that stated:
    "It is difficult to estimate the number of persons who currently work, or have ever worked as prostitutes for many reasons including the various definitions of prostitution. National arrest figures [in the United States] range over 100,000. The National Task Force on Prostitution suggests that over one million people in the US have worked as prostitutes in the United States"

    2. After some searching, these are the most recent statistics I’ve found:

    Number of people killed by guns in the United States in 2004: 29,569

    Percentage breakdown by US gun deaths in 2004, by type:

    * 16,750 suicides (56% of all U.S. gun deaths)
    * 11,624 homicides (40%)
    * 649 unintentional shootings, 311 from legal intervention and 235 from undetermined intent (4%).

    That averages out to 81 people dying everyday from guns. And also some gun ownership stats:

    More than 100 million handguns are owned in the United
    States primarily for self‐defense, and 3.5 million people have permits to carry concealed handguns for protection. Currently, the population of the U.S. is around 300 million people.

    But the question is how many people have been killed by the U.S. military in the world and how much history was destroyed??

    I can very easy to make a short history about what was and what is U.S.A.
    But i think is better to look FIRST on our own problems and to not watch the neighbor's garden!
    Everywhere is the same: traffickers,corruption, prostitution,crimes.

    Alina Funes, Romania

  2. Romania is a mafia state with not working administration governed by organized crime.

    Human trafficking in Romania is a state policy and a modern retail which feed corruption and organized crime. Organized crime is constantly looking for legitimate business that could be used as a cover.Behind such companies, actually hiding network specializing in recruitment of girls who end up prostitute.
    These companies are used as a mask, to support illegal activities, to wash the money, but also because leaders mobs to be seen as successful entrepreneurs.
    Besides these companies, strongly related with them, in the town of Curtea de Arges (Romania) exist more mafia groups(indestructible mafia groups) which with the complicity of local taxi drivers, recruit, transport, and place girls to practice prostitution, girls which later are trafficked external.
    According to data held by the Italian authorities in Roma: 85% of prostitutes in Rome are romanian woman. In Milano: eight of ten prostitutes which practice “job” in Milano are romanian woman including Ioana Visan, Berlusconi's hooker from Curtea de Arges (Curtea de Arges, pimps factory from Romania, manager: local corrupt police ) arrived in Italy by prostitution networks from Curtea de Arges
    Cars of the pimps from Curtea de Arges who recruit girls from prostitution and customers for them: B-14-WXH (prostitute-pimp who was married with Caroli Pici, said Loti, a member of a criminal gang George Nan by world involved in human trafficking, kidnappings, usury and murders, thefts from apartments, and car thefts, and that on the June 20, 2004 abducted and kidnapped Anna Maria Valdata, the italian wife of a tycoon for which demanded a ransom of 1 million euros ) and B-34-TND (pimp - one of the mob leaders from Curtea de Arges)
    About the pimp Caroli Pici, nick Loti and local corrupt police: Denmark, Romania is the country with the most prostitutes and according to Europol, Eurojust, The Times, CNN, the first exporter of prostitution in Europe is Romania.
    Police mafia-underworld
    Mafia groups in Romania are "monitored" for nearly 20 years. Police chiefs the long investigations, sent in prison some between pawns of sacrifice indicate by the underworld, in this way mafia groups unfolding-and in continuation criminal activity.
    Everything, seasoned with a few masked which, below the cameras, will break the door, will seize the swords and guns ball, clubs and other trifles from those established as victims.

    German Bundestag: "Corruption in Romania is a worrying problem. It's not a sporadic apparition is a systematic phenomenon.”.
    El Pais about Romania: corrupt and without money.
    La Croix: Romania, the most corrupt country in Europe.
    Tel Aviv: Corruption in Romania is a national disease.
    The Times: Romania is the first exporter of prostitution.
    Transparency International: In Romania, the atmosphere is filled with corruption
    Jan Marinus Wiersma: Romania still needs another 25 years to eradicate corruption
    Geert Wilders: Romania and Bulgaria should be excluded from the EU due to high corruption and irregularities which make them unsuitable as members of the EU.