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Women's and Girls' Reasons for Migrating
Of the thirty-six women and girls surveyed for this report, twenty had migrated from Moldova, eight from Ukraine, and eight from Romania.36 All but one migrated voluntarily for employment.37 Generally, the women and girls pointed to appalling economic conditions and lack of opportunity in their own countries as the main reasons that they felt the need to migrate for employment. One woman, sold to a bar in Orasje, told Human Rights Watch, "There is no work in Ukraine. But here it is like a prison."38 Another trafficking victim interviewed in Sarajevo said, "I am from Moldova, and it is hard in Moldova. There's no money, there's no work, and it's expensive to study. There is a crisis in Moldova."39

Other women told of similar circumstances:

      Due to the fact that the living conditions in [Moldova] are very hard and that I lost my job, I met the person named Tanja... and she told me that... I could get a lot of money over there [in Italy] by working in the shop or [as] the cleaning lady in some hotel.40

Two of the thirty-six women said they needed to support children left at home. One trafficked woman, a mother of a five-year-old son, gave testimony to the court in Doboj in 1998. She had asked the owner of the brothel where she worked to return the 1,000 Deutschmarks [€513/U.S.$463] that he had ordered her to give him for "safekeeping" a month earlier. He refused to return it. According to the sworn testimony she gave in Doboj:

      I told [the owner] that I didn't want to work there anymore and that I wanted to see my child.... I told him, "I earned my 1,000 Deutschmarks, and now I want to buy a ticket to go back home and to take some money back to feed my child. In Ukraine we have nothing to eat." I told him that my mother, who is taking care of my child, has no other ways to borrow money anymore.41

Recruiting Practices
Only three of the thirty-six women and girls said they had answered job advertisements in newspapers. In fifteen cases, women stated that friends or acquaintances had promised them "good jobs" abroad, only to trick them and sell them to traffickers.42 The women described the recruiters as taxi drivers, acquaintances from their villages, friends of their parents, friends from an orphanage, and in one case, the brother of a close friend. Ten of the women were promised jobs as waitresses, four as dancers, five as housekeepers or cleaning women, one as a shop assistant, one as a nurse, and one as a tangerine harvester in Greece.

One Ukrainian woman in her mid-twenties trafficked in 1999 told us, "When I came to work here, [the traffickers] tricked me on the way. [The owners] told us that we would dance.... We had a visa, and everything was fine at first. But when we wanted to leave, the owner sold us. They told me that I would be a dancer, but then I had to be a prostitute."43

C.C., a Romanian woman interviewed in the same brothel, told Human Rights Watch:

      I have been here seven months [since August 1998].... I came from Romania. A woman helped me across the border. She is a Romanian woman who lives with a Serb man.... She told me that I could work as a housecleaner for 200 Deutschmarks [€103/U.S.$93] each month.... [She and her husband] held me in a locked room for six days.... I was locked in and tricked. One evening they put me in a car and brought me to [a] bar.44

B.B., a twenty-two year old Ukrainian woman, told investigators, "I have been in Bosnia for three months [since December 1998]. I came to work here in a bar. I knew nothing when they took me to Serbia-I was sold there four times to different men. [The traffickers] brought me to a bar and told me that I had to work as a prostitute."45

While some of the women were willing to work in the sex industry, none of them anticipated that they would be sold or forced to pay off large debts. As one woman trafficked into Prijedor in 2000 told IPTF investigators, "The girls were obliged to dance, drink a lot and go into their rooms with anyone. All girls were working three months for free. We were eating once per day and sleeping 5-6 hours per day. If we would not do what they [the owners and guards] wanted us to do, the security guards would beat us."46

Trafficking Routes and Transportation
The women and girls reported that the traffickers relied on ground transportation and small boats to move them from one country into the next, often selecting routes that avoided official border crossings. Some women and girls crossed at official posts using false passports or hidden in trunks or boxes. The routes zigzagged across countries, leaving the women and girls disoriented and making escape difficult. Throughout their journeys, women and girls reported switching cars repeatedly and finding themselves locked in apartments or houses, constantly guarded by traffickers and, in some cases, dogs.

One Moldovan woman, interviewed by Human Rights Watch during her stay at the IOM shelter in Sarajevo in April 2001, reported that she was bought and sold by traffickers four times. Trafficked to Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 2000, she told of traveling by taxi, bus, and boat, in car trunks, and on foot before finally reaching the establishment owned by the man who had purchased her for 2,000 Deutschmarks (€1,026/U.S.$925).47

Six of the women reported that they were forced to strip naked in front of potential "buyers." According to testimony provided to the IPTF by a seventeen-year-old Romanian trafficked into Prijedor in 2000, a friend of a friend provided transportation for her to Moldova. Traffickers then transported her across a river by boat. Although she was promised a job harvesting tangerines in Greece, traffickers took her to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Traveling at night with two male escorts, she and several other women crossed over another river by motorboat, and then switched back to a car, ending up at a small house. There, traffickers ordered the women to undress. When she refused, the trafficker took her upstairs where he beat and then raped her. Traffickers then sold her to the owners of a bar in Prijedor.48

Mara Radovanovic, director of the anti-trafficking NGO Lara, told Human Rights Watch, "Most traffickers are from Serbia, but some are Bosnian. They have recruiters who sell [the women] on the border.... In Belgrade [capital of the neighboring Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] there is some kind of a collective center. They have someone in Belgrade who makes false passports. The woman goes to the photographer and... they give her a passport, change her name, change her age.... If her family searches for her they cannot find her_there is no such girl."49

Sale of Women and Girls
All of the women and girls Human Rights Watch and the NGO Lara interviewed, as well as those who gave testimony in the courts and to IPTF, had been sold. In a typical case, a woman trafficked from Moldova in the summer of 2000 told Human Rights Watch:

      [One trafficker] took me to a bar in Belgrade, and I danced. Another guy asked me to work for him, and he bought me. I stayed there for a little while. I was sold two more times, and they took me to Bijeljina. I lived at home with the [owner's] wife and kids for one week. One guy [name withheld] came with a friend and he bought me.... I was locked in. I told him that I wanted to go home and he said that I had to pay off a debt [her purchase price].50

After the women and girls arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina, most of the purchasers were local Bosnians, but in some cases, women and girls were purchased by members of the international community. One Moldovan woman, sold for the first time in Belgrade, and for the last time to an American citizen working in Tuzla, told IPTF investigators:

      I was sold in Bosnia. The owner told me that he paid 2000 KM [convertible marks-€1,025/U.S.$925] for each of seven girls. My movement was restricted completely. I could not go anywhere. In Dubrave village, Tuzla municipality, at the Harl[e]y Davidson nightclub, one [local policeman] was very often in the club. I recognized him in the photo showed to me by the local police for Crime Department Tuzla. I was beaten very often if I refused "to work." Very often we were hungry. Every time we were threatened to be sold to Serbia.... Kevin [an American] paid 3,000 Deutschmarks [€1,538/U.S.$1,388] for me.51

Until Kevin was deported on a weapons charge,52 the Moldovan woman lived with him in a private house in Dubrave. Before departing, he returned her passport, which he had held.

Women faced constant threats that if they did not cooperate, they would be sold again to other, more "dangerous owners." One trafficking victim from Ukraine told Human Rights Watch, "... when we wanted to leave, the owner sold us... He just put us in a car... We came here, and the owner here told us that we had been sold and that we had to work off our debt... He said that he would sell us to another man..."53

Conditions in the Nightclubs
Women and girls trafficked to Bosnia and Herzegovina and held in debt bondage described abysmal conditions and mistreatment. In three cases made known by the NGO Lara, the women experienced severe beatings at the hands of owners and guards for failing to cooperate. Several others complained that they were "psychologically tortured" by the owners. All of the women told investigators that they were not given enough to eat.

Human Rights Watch accompanied IPTF monitors on a raid of a nightclub in Orasje in March 1999. The bedrooms, located in a small corridor behind the bar, reeked of perspiration and other bodily fluids. The bathroom facilities were completely inadequate for the five women forced to share the tight and filthy quarters. Condoms littered the floor, and the bed sheets were dirty. The bar was dark. The four women interviewed told Human Rights Watch that the managers, a husband and wife, forbade them to leave the bar.54 In five other cases reviewed, women complained that they could not leave the nightclubs.

Some of the women who were accepted into the high risk and low risk IOM shelters in Sarajevo exhibited serious physical injuries as well as psychological trauma. As Amela Efendic, a member of the IOM staff in Sarajevo, told Human Rights Watch, "They [the women] come with cigarette burns, syphilis, (gynecological) infections, head injuries, and fractures."55 The abuse suffered by trafficked women left them vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases. Souren Serydarian, a U.N. official, stated, "Trafficked women working in the sex industry have little control over their working environments, which means that HIV/AIDS, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases, are immediate threats to their health and their lives. Also, in a vicious cycle, these diseases can spread to infect partners, families, and break down entire communities."56

Although employers generally promised the trafficked women that they could keep 50 percent of their earnings after they paid off their debt, this rarely occurred in practice. In some cases, owners arbitrarily extended a woman's period of debt bondage and simply refused to split her earnings. According to A.A., a young Ukrainian woman trafficked into Bosnia and Herzegovina, "We came here, and the owner told us that we had been sold and that we had to work off our debt....We could not leave. He said that we had to work three more months even after we had worked off our debt... until the 8th of March. But after that we still had to work."57

One of the trafficked women found in a nightclub in Prijedor in November 2000 told investigators:

      I worked in Maskarada 3.5 months [in 2000]. I worked in Crazy Horse for a month for free, because Milka [the owner] bought me. She bought my clothes and provided me with food. I have [had] 265 clients in 4.5 months. [A bodyguard] beat me when I didn't want to work the first month [after the owners bought me]. [The owner] has never given me the money.58

Some bar owners allowed women to keep their tips. But in many cases, the owners simply levied fines that sucked even those small earnings away from the women. Through fines, forced purchases of lingerie and food, or outright theft, the women found that they effectively earned no money. One woman, D.D., trafficked to Bosnia and Herzegovina from Ukraine in 1998, told Human Rights Watch, "I did not earn anything. I earned money at the bar Scharmant, but [the owner] fined me for any small infraction and took away from me 300 Deutschmarks [€154/U.S.$138] that I had saved."59

Police Raids60
Local police and foreigners' department officials visited the nightclubs and bars on an occasional basis to check for women and girls working without documents.61 But during such document checks, as described to Human Rights Watch by Lara activists, some women and girls feared speaking to the police because of the officers' obviously friendly relations with the owners. In other cases, such as that of E.E. from Moldova, brothel/bar owners, after receiving a tip-off that a raid was imminent, hid women and girls without documents or work permits in apartments or secret rooms.62 Lara staff members described a case of a woman hidden for hours in a freezing attic without food or water.

An experienced IPTF human rights officer who had interviewed dozens of trafficked women told Human Rights Watch:

      The [trafficked women] do not trust the local police. Very often the local police visit the clubs. They see local police every day, and some use their sexual services sometimes for free because they have connections to the owners. So the women don't trust the local police. They are threatened by the owners, who tell them that this policeman is his protection or "roof." The girls see the police every day.63

While the presence of IPTF officers on raids sometimes allowed women to request assistance, some IPTF officers also visited the nightclubs as clients.64 In other cases, IPTF officers asked the women as a group if they were working voluntarily, rather than in private interviews. The women often were afraid to speak up in front of others who might leak the conversation to the bar owner.

Prosecutions of Victims
Trafficked women and girls faced the frightening possibility that they might be prosecuted for document fraud, prostitution, or illegal residence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In a case in Sokolac in March 2001, women were prosecuted and imprisoned for thirty days after testifying against their traffickers. IPTF appeared completely incapable of preventing prosecution of these women.65 Despite attempts by the Office of the High Representative66 and UNMIBH to force the government to cease prosecutions of trafficked women, they continued in lesser numbers as late as September 2001. According to Celhia de Lavarene, director of the STOP, "the prosecutors don't want to talk about trafficking, they only want to talk about prostitution."67 In order to prevent prosecutions of trafficking victims, de Lavarene reported, "I take the women away from the court and put them in shelters."68

Escaping from the Nightclubs
Most of the women and girls who managed to escape did so by approaching IPTF officers or STOP team members during raids of their nightclubs and alerting them to their status as trafficking victims. Others fled the nightclubs and ran to IPTF stations or SFOR bases. In one case documented by Human Rights Watch, a twenty-two-year-old woman trafficked from Ukraine managed to contact her father by telephone, telling him that she had been placed in debt bondage. He alerted the Ukrainian police and Interpol began to search for the woman, sending faxes to UNMIBH and to the local Bosnian authorities. In March 1999, the local police, under the supervision of IPTF, raided the bar where she worked, freeing her and three others.69

Returning Home
In the thirty-six cases examined by Human Rights Watch (all but one of the women trafficked into forced prostitution),70 the women and girls said they wanted to return home. One also expressed fear that traffickers would be waiting for her there to demand additional monies. E.E., a trafficking victim from Moldova, told Human Rights Watch:

      I am afraid that he [my friend's brother, the person who sold me] will come and demand money from me. The police are corrupt there. They'll say that I was a prostitute and then the police won't help. He'll find out that I am home and demand more money.... There is no phone in my village and I cannot call anyone.... If he comes to my house and threatens me, I don't have any money to call [someone to help me in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital].71

The women and girls accepted into the IOM voluntary repatriation program received plane tickets, escorts at transit airports, overnight shelter upon arrival at their country of origin, and train or bus tickets home. In addition, IOM provided U.S.$150 in reintegration assistance, with U.S.$50 given at the time of departure and the additional U.S.$100 dispensed upon arrival back in the country of origin. Even with this very meager assistance, IOM staff claimed that only three of the women and girls assisted through the program had been re-trafficked.72

36 Six victims were seventeen years of age.

37 One woman from Moldova was kidnapped while visiting Bucharest, Romania. Two women stated that they had planned to visit relatives in Italy and had hoped to find employment there. In another case, a woman told Human Rights Watch researchers that she and a friend were sold by the friend's brother to traffickers after the brother promised to give them a ride from their village to a Moldovan city where they hoped to find work. Human Rights Watch interview, E.E., Sarajevo, April 10, 2001.

38 Human Rights Watch interview, B.B., Orasje, March 22, 1999.

39 Human Rights Watch interview, E.E., Sarajevo, April 10, 2001.

40 Official IPTF interview transcript, Prijedor #9, November 23, 2000.

41 Testimony of X.X., Doboj Center for Public Safety, Case no. 12-02/1/451/98, June 6, 1998.

42 Of the twenty-six women and girls who indicated that they had a concrete destination in mind when they migrated, fourteen said that traffickers promised them jobs in Italy; five expected legitimate jobs in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; another five in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and one each in Germany, Greece, and Romania.

43 Human Rights Watch interview, A.A., Orasje, March 22, 1999.

44 Human Rights Watch interview, C.C., Orasje, March 22, 1999.

45 Human Rights Watch interview, B.B., Orasje, March 22, 1999.

46 Official IPTF interview transcript, Prijedor #3, November 22, 2000.

47 Human Rights Watch interview, E.E., Sarajevo, April 10, 2001.

48 Official IPTF interview transcript, Prijedor #1, November 23, 2001.

49 Human Rights Watch interview, Mara Radovanovic, director, Lara, Bijeljina, March 22, 2001.

50 Human Rights Watch interview, E.E., Sarajevo, April 10, 2001.

51 IPTF internal report, Tuzla, June 26, 2000.

52 See Chapter XI, SFOR Contractor Involvement.

53 Human Rights Watch interview, A.A., Orasje, March 22, 1999.

54 Human Rights Watch interviews, A.A., B.B., C.C., D.D., Orasje, March 22, 1999.

55 Human Rights Watch interview, Amela Efendic, IOM program officer, Sarajevo, March 26, 2001.

56 UNMIBH press release, "Sex Industry Linked to Spread of HIV/AIDS in Southeastern Europe, Says U.N. Official," November 30, 2001, at (retrieved December 10, 2001).

57 Human Rights Watch interview, A.A., Orasje, March 22, 1999. March 8 is International Women's Day; the interviewee appeared to note the grim irony of the date.

58 IPTF official interview transcript, Prijedor #5, November 22, 2000.

59 Human Rights Watch interview, D.D., Orasje, March 22, 1999.

60 Police involvement in trafficking is explored more extensively in Chapter VI.

61 Police and foreigners' unit representatives conducted occasional raids to do document checks. These checks screened for foreigners working illegally in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those who lacked documents or held fake documents could be arrested, fined, or jailed. In 2001, STOP teams began to monitor the raids and document checks.

62 Human Rights Watch interview, E.E., Sarajevo, April 10, 2001.

63 Human Rights Watch interview, IPTF human rights officer [name withheld], Tuzla, March 24, 2001.

64 See Chapter X, IPTF and Trafficking.

65 See Chapter VII, Bosnian Government Response.

66 The Office of the High Representative (OHR) is the chief civilian peace implementation agency in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement designated the High Representative to oversee the implementation of the civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement on behalf of the international community, at (retrieved November 11, 2002)

67 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Celhia de Lavarene, STOP director, March 14, 2002.

68 Ibid.

69 Human Rights Watch interview, B.B., Orasje, March 22, 1999.

70 In one of the cases examined by Human Rights Watch, the trafficked woman refused to provide sexual services for clients. The traffickers forced her to work as a waitress in their restaurant and continued to try to force her into prostitution.

71 Human Rights Watch interview, E.E., Sarajevo, April 10, 2001.

72 Dr. Lynellyn Long, chief of mission, IOM, public statement on trafficking into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Washington, D.C., December 10, 2001. "Re-trafficking" refers to the phenomenon of the return of a trafficking victim to conditions of forced labor or servitude after she has escaped her original traffickers. Traffickers recapture the trafficked person and force her to travel abroad again, relying on threats, coercion, or intimidation. Trafficking victims are often told that their debt has not been paid off and that they must return to the original country of destination or another country to clear the debt.

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