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Sex slaves often come from Russia, go to Germany - UN
By Louis Charbonneau
May 13, 2003

VIENNA (Reuters) - Russia is where people forced to become sex workers most commonly come from and Germany the place they most often end up working, the United Nations said Tuesday after studying thousands of cases of human trafficking.

The U.N. Centre for International Crime Prevention is compiling a computer database on victims of human trafficking, defined as people being forcibly taken to a foreign country or lured there with false promises of legitimate employment.

Instead of a legitimate job, trafficking victims are often forced to work in brothels, suffer beatings, have their passports confiscated or are kept as prisoners.

"Russia is the most frequently named country of origin among victims of human trafficking and Germany is the most popular destination," Kristiina Kangaspunta, an official of the center, told a news conference.

The other most common countries of origin are Ukraine, Thailand, Nigeria, Moldova, Romania, Albania, China, Belarus and Bulgaria.

"It is interesting that these are not the (absolute) poorest countries in the world," Kangaspunta said. "Not surprisingly, the destination countries are among the richest countries."

After Germany, the most common destinations for sex slaves and forced laborers are the United States, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, Greece, India, Thailand and Australia.

"80 to 90 percent of them become victims of sexual exploitation, the rest victims of forced labour," Kangaspunta said. She said nearly half of the victims of trafficking were children, and 96 percent were females.

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the U.N.'s Vienna-based Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, said there were some 700,000 to one million cases of human trafficking annually around the world.

"We think we stop around 10 percent of the cases of trafficking," he said.

He added that it was important for countries with lax laws to tighten them up to ensure that human trafficking was treated as a serious crime.

"Penalties for trafficking in some are lighter than the penalties for drug trafficking," said Kevin Bales, a consultant working with the United Nations on human trafficking issues.

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