Slovak campaign highlights dangers of trafficking

12-07-2003

In Slovakia a media campaign is trying to prevent young girls and women from falling into the hands of traffickers. The campaign has been organised by the Slovak mission of the International Organisation for Migration

Is it possible to say how many women have been trafficked out of the Slovak Republic within last year? Zuzana Vatralova, a representative of the IOM in Slovakia.

"We don't know precise numbers and I'm afraid we will never know. We only know about cases that police knows of. For example, last year, the police recorded 17 cases of trafficking. These were, however, cases of violation of certain regulation of the law, which talks about trafficking".

This gives only the number of prosecuted cases and not the number of actual victims.

"Slovak embassies have come to a contact with 32 Slovak women who said they were victims of trafficking. And when we addressed non-governmental organisations in Europe, they have come to a contact with 42 women from Slovakia who claimed to be victims of this crime. "

Following available statistics, most cases of Slovak women who are victims of trafficking were recorded in the Czech Republic and Austria. The classical scenario of deceit is represented by an unknown person, who offers a job with good money to a girl. One of these victims, a woman in her forties, was offered an ancillaries' job in Italy by her friend. Her story is one of 4 presented in a documentary shot for the recently launched campaign.

"I was terrified when I realised that instead of a restaurant job I got to a night bar. There were only bottles of alcohol and about 15 girls around. The owner went hysterical when I refused to take my clothes off and join the other girls dancing on stage. I was absolutely helpless so I had to follow his orders."

The woman did not have any money to return home. Later, a Spanish gentleman offered her help by making up a story about mutual falling in love. In the end, they were frantically chased by several cars all the way to the Slovak embassy where she spent the next week hidden from the world.

At the beginning of June, a victims support help line service was extended for preventative purposes as well. Every week, more than 100 phone calls deal with the problem of trafficking abroad. Zuzana Vatralova says it is a success.

Fortunately, they are preventative calls so people usually ask, for example: "Somebody forces me to sign a contract in English, they don't give me the chance to get translation of it, should I sign it or not because I don't quite understand every detail?" In such a case we say no, don't sign it. We try to convince people that there are enough of opportunities of working abroad.

If a foreigner comes across a woman who was sold and suffers physical and mental abuse, the best way is to connect her with the embassy of her homeland. Girls and women in need usually work in places distant to the capital of the foreign country where all the embassies are situated.

"So that's how they can help them because then the embassy can help them to get home or to go to the police if they are willing to do it and witness against people who trafficked them."

For everybody who could help, it is possible to find the worldwide list of Slovak embassies at the web page: www.foreign.gov.sk.

12-07-2003