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2012 (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. In Greece, unemployment reached 24.4 percent in January 2016 with a youth unemployment rate of 51.9 percent.

Teodora was forced to become a prostitute in Belgium. She contributed to the arrest of her procurers in Romania and gained custody of her son.

I was a simple woman. I had a partner, we lived together. I lived with him for seven years. I had a child and worked in a restaurant.

My mother and sister-in-law were deported from Romania to Belgium. I saw the deportation orders and it said clearly that they had been prostitutes in Belgium.

She wanted, she forced me to go and be a prostitute in Belgium. She used my son to threaten me. She had every mean to take my son away.

I worked in a bar dedicated to prostitution. Every Friday, I was expected to send them 300 euros. I had to send them that in addition to the gifts I would take to Romania.

I couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I disgusted myself because I couldn’t believe I was doing this. I couldn’t recognize myself. I was a different woman from before.

I wanted to get out, but couldn’t find a way. I managed to endure because of my son, because a child for a mother, he’s my heart, my life, my eyes. I’ve no words for it.

We can never forget. Never.

It may heal over, but the scars will remain for the rest of your life.

As told to the  European Commission