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2008 (Narrative date)

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.

Nicoleta’s account of her sexual exploitation makes clear the role of emotional attachment and manipulation between pimps and those they abuse and enslave.

In the beginning, it was nice. He kept me for himself, he bought me clothes, cosmetics, he was treating me nicely. Then, an ex-girlfriend of his arrived and, for the time, this one stayed with him and he sent me to produce [make money]. My sister was jealous of me because she was making money together with the other girls and I was kept only for him. At that time, we patched things up as I went to make money, too. When his ex-girlfriend left, he kept me for himself again. He was rather old but nice. Only that he used to hit me, to curse me if I didn’t obey him and I didn’t go fetch something (for instance beer from the fridge). I had to be obedient and do the work around the house.

I fell in love with a guy from another city. I loved him so much. He said to me: “Our future is abroad. You have to go there, to work as a prostitute, just for a short period of time. With the money you will gain, you will pay my journey to that foreign country. And we will live there.” He had money to pay only for my journey. At first I cried, I didn’t want to, but since I loved him very much, I decided to do what he suggested me.

As told to UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre