Despite having the lowest regional prevalence of modern slavery in the world, Europe remains a destination, and to a lesser extent, a source region for the exploitation of men, women and children in forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. According to the most recent Eurostat findings, European Union (EU) citizens account for 65 percent of identified trafficked victims within Europe. These individuals mostly originate from Eastern Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia. In Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Parliament has identified corruption and the judicial system as reform challenges towards accession talks within the EU. In Greece, the turbulent economic situation has increased vulnerability for populations seeking employment and livelihood opportunities. In Greece, unemployment reached 24.4 percent in January 2016 with a youth unemployment rate of 51.9 percent. “Evalina” describes numerous attempts to escape from her sexual exploitation as a child, including contacting family members, jumping from the window, and telling her clients about her situation. She described her situation as “impossible to escape” because she was always being watched.
I tried to escape, but they beat me cruelly. I managed to run away together with another 14-year-old girl to a family where we lived for two weeks. One day, when I went to buy some bread, I was detained by the police and sent to a temporary shelter.
I spoke with a girl who also wanted to run away. We did not speak openly about that in order not to be denounced. I ran away with that girl, who had the key to an apartment of a friend of hers who lived in the suburbs of the city. We stayed there around two weeks in order to be convinced that no one was chasing us. Then we phoned some relatives at home.
I tried to run away three times. Two times I was caught and beaten severely. I succeeded in running away only the third time. I got acquainted with a woman from my country who took me to her place and we lived together. One month later she helped me to get work as a waitress. It was she who advised me to go to the police.
When I caught on how things stood, I started coming out on the street earlier than the other girls, so they don’t see me, and I made some money to call my grandmother and tell her what I was doing.... I asked my grandmother how I could get away. She talked to the police in our village and they told her that if I went to the police and said that I was a minor, they would help me come back home. There was also another girl belonging to the same pimp who had told me the same thing. But she had advised me that it would be better to wait for a police patrol car to pass by in the area so I could tell them and they could take me away from there. Otherwise, I might not be able to reach the police station, as we were being watched. So this is what I did.
I tried to escape but they locked me in and beat me. When I found out that I was pregnant, the pimps threatened me with an abortion. So once, when they took me to a client, I jumped from the second floor. I hid myself, but some girls helped me to find my friend with whom I had departed in the beginning and who worked for another pimp. She took me to an apartment, gave me money and took me to the train.
It was impossible to escape as they watched me day and night. A client who was also a lawyer put pressure on the trafficker to buy me a return ticket to my country.
I told three clients that I had been kidnapped from home and that I’m a minor. But they told the owner about it, because they didn’t care. But one of the clients said that he would save me from the club.... Then, I gave him the telephone number of a schoolmate and asked him to convey the message “[name] is expecting you in [city]”. Following this call, my school friend understood that something bad was happening and called my parents. My mother immediately notified the police.
As told to UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre