Balkan women who are victims of human trafficking are increasingly ending up in Macedonia, according to police. In the past seven months, 54 women from Balkan countries have been apprehended as part of human trafficking chains.
“Compared to previous years, when usually girls from Ukraine, Moldova and other eastern countries end up in human trafficking chains in Macedonia, now the routes of the smugglers are more local,” Vladimir Pivovarov, professor at Skopje FON University and an expert on sex crime in Macedonia, told SETimes.
Last month, Macedonian police targeted the human trafficking chains and discovered 46 dancers and escorts working illegally in bars in Macedonian towns of Tetovo, Gostivar and Kumanovo.
Most of them came from other Balkan countries — 22 Serbian, 9 Bulgarian, four Albanian nationals, one from Montenegro, one from Kosovo and one from Italy. The other eight were Macedonian.
“There is an evident trend of increase. This partially might be result of the bigger police activity in fighting this crime,” Ivo Kotevski, assistant minister of interior in charge of public relations, told SETimes.
According to sociologists, the reasons girls and women are forced to turn to the sex trade are mainly economic. While in the past poverty and unemployment was forcing women from Eastern European countries into human trafficking chains, now girls from Balkan countries go the same road.
The poor economic situation and low prospects of their countries makes them easy victims for human traffickers.
“This phenomenon is connected to the poverty and the crisis they face. Of course, certain influence has the fact that the family in these countries no longer has the traditional role it once had,” Ilija Acevski, a sociology professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Skopje, told SETimes.
The investigation showed that the girls arrested last month in Macedonia were making as much as 40 euros a night, splitting tips with the owners of the bars. During the search, several thousands of euros in cash were found hidden in their purses.
According to unofficial estimates, human trafficking in Macedonia brings an annual profit of 50 to 60 million euros to human trafficking organisers.
Experts say that it is hard to estimate the money earned through this crime in Macedonia, but they agree that it is a highly profitable illicit business and that security forces in the region must eagerly work and collaborate to prevent it.
Pivovarov suggests forming a regional centre, allowing security forces from countries in the region to intensify co-operation and the exchange of to prevent human trafficking.
“The threat coming from this crime is evident. The co-operation among smugglers and traffickers from the region and beyond is intense, so our response must be adequate,” he told SETimes.