September 22, 2005

Not only poor fall prey to sex traffickers: OSCE

By Nicola Leske

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Depressed economic conditions and
lack of jobs in Eastern Europe are now making well educated
people, not just the poor, fall prey to human trafficking for
the sex trade and cheap labor, European monitors say.

"We see things are changing," Helga Konrad of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) told
Reuters in an interview in The Hague late on Wednesday.

Most of the 200,000 to 500,000 people caught up in sexual
and labor exploitation in Europe are poor and with no or little
schooling, but people with a higher education are beginning to
be vulnerable as well, Konrad said.

Konrad, the OSCE's special representative on combating
human trafficking, cited the case of a Ukrainian woman with a
university degree who after failing to find a job in her native
country followed a friend's advice to seek work in London.

"She ended up being forced to work in a brothel for the
next two and a half years," Konrad said.

Most people leave their country voluntarily, setting their
hopes on false job offers, Konrad said, adding that around 10
percent get kidnapped.

The exploitation of people's hopes of a better future has
led to an enormous industry with profits calculated to be as
high as $10 to $15 billion worldwide annually, she added.

"Human trafficking is one of the most globalized criminal
business worldwide ... this is a criminal industry which has
links to money laundering, transport, employment agencies,"
Konrad said.

The OSCE is a 55-state human rights and democracy
monitoring organization, based in Vienna.

Konrad said she hoped to combat human trafficking -- which
she described as "modern slavery in the 21st century" -- by
engaging governments, non-governmental organizations and human
rights agencies to work together.

"But it is the governments where the responsibility lies,"
she said. "If they were doing all they could, I wouldn't be

The World Bank and international financiers should also
ensure their aid programs benefit poor people who are most
vulnerable to human trafficking, she said.