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CRIME

Germany battles rising tide of sex trafficking

German police are fighting a boom in sex trafficking from the Balkans region, driven by pimps and traffickers recruiting increasingly young women, experts said in Berlin this week.

Germany battles rising tide of sex trafficking
Photo: DPA

Experts gathered this week for a discussion, organized by the aid group Care, to mark the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Thursday.

“The trade in girls is a lucrative business in the Balkans” says Anton Markmiller from Care.

Young women are lured with advertisements promising the chance to earn a lot of money in a short time through work abroad, for a range of jobs from secretary to dancer. Traffickers go to great lengths to hide the true destination, normally brothels hidden behind closed doors or on the edges of cities.

Heike Rudat, who has been working in the Berlin state Office of Criminal Investigation for seven years to investigate red light district activity, said that the trade in women from Asia to Eastern Europe had boomed since German reunification and the fall of the Iron Curtain 20 years ago.

“You can track how the poverty line has shifted” she said. Many of the women and girls trafficked come from Bulgaria and Romania, often belonging to the persecuted Roma population.

Rudat, a key player in Germany’s largest counter-trafficking squad, said that “the damage to these young women appears to be enormous”, with the risk of AIDS and other illnesses extremely high.

She added that child-trafficking is also not uncommon in Germany, though it is often ignored. “It is here, and happening right under our noses” she said.

She explained that with violence being the tool most often used to control victims, “the brutality often repeats itself” as victims often inflicting the same cruelty on others later in life.

Of the pimps and traffickers, Rudat stated plainly that they have “no basic respect for human life.” Nor did she pull any punches regarding the clients, saying that a quick glance at any of the internet forums used to solicit trafficked women shows that for many clients, “a chunk of flesh with a hole in it” would do.

Corruption and lawlessness help trafficking, with many women and girls having worked in brothels in their homelands.

Sister Lea Ackermann has run international counter-trafficking programmes since 1985 and now runs the Germany-based SOLWODI organisation for victims of trafficking, forced prostitution, forced marriage and violence. She said that “it is a golden age for offenders, as they get away with these crimes so easily.”

In the past year, SOLWODI (Solidarity with Women in Distress) has helped 403 women from south-eastern Europe find refuges from violence.

However, Sister Ackermann said many victims of violence were afraid to go to court because they could be punished at home as a result.

No one knows just how many women and girls are traumatised by human trafficking, the experts said. German criminal statistics compiled by analysts such as Rudat are thought barely to touch on the true figure. In 2009, there were 710 known victims of trafficking, but as Rudat acknowledged, “we only see the tip of the iceberg.”

This year, the regional section of Care based in Germany and Luxembourg has been provided with EU funding to assist women’s organisations in the Balkan region, working in the fight against human trafficking in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.

DAPD/rm

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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