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. Valeria’s account makes clear the physical and psychological abuse that is often used to manipulate and imprison those being abused and exploited.
I lived with 20 girls in the trafficker’s apartment. I was beaten many times. They told me if I ran away they would find and kill me, would come to my village and kill my mother.... Then he sold me to a woman. They took us by maxi taxi to the place where we were sold. We were sold to the clients, three to four girls per night. A woman took the money. We were always supervised. We were beaten for any little thing. We ate only pasta. Several girls ran away, the trafficker caught them and beat them hard in front of us. They told us that the same will happen to us if we run away.
During my time there, the owner of the bar and a friend of his used me and one day the owner had to leave because his son was sick, so he left me with his friend, who sexually used me and when I would refuse or I would try to get out they would keep me locked in the basement.
They threatened me saying that there was nothing I could do, that everybody had seen me with them and nobody would believe me, that they would set fire to my house, that they would kill my mother and my child, that they would rape my sisters.
They threatened me saying that if I would not work for them, they would make me the laughing stock of the village.
As told to UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre