The National Police numbers 37,000 women forced into prostitution throughout Spain
Yoana, a 24-year-old Romanian girl , had been forced into prostitution for almost a year in Spain. I did it on roads in the provinces of Tarragona and Barcelona. Always controlled by a pimp , also Romanian, cousin of the boy who cheated on her in his country with a false job offer: in a car wash. In Spain, the promised employment never arrived. And to settle the debt of the trip and the necessary documentation to do it, the Romanian friend told him that while he was getting the job, he had to sell his body.
She obviously refused. But the threats came. She spent two weeks locked in a flat in Badalona without leaving, so that she could think better of it. Enough time to remind him that in Romania he had left his parents, and that they knew where they lived. No need to say more. Their ‘labor’ days were 12 hours, until the pimp tired of watching her. Each service, between 20 and 25 euros. And there were days that he made up to 15 services . One day, desperate, she saw in an advertisement the telephone number that the National Police has enabled in the special plan against trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation , 900.10.50.90.
Her call took effect, and while she continued to prostitute herself so as not to arouse suspicion , the police closed the ring and stopped the pimp and her two cronies in mid-June, a small family clan that had several prostituted girls without knowing each other. A small ‘business’ that allowed them to live well. Yoana has been brave. But his is an exceptional case. Because not all of them denounce or collaborate with Justice . Fear, police experts say, is the main barrier victims still have to overcome.
Socially, they are not considered victims. And this is not leisure, it is a crime, says a police expert. The first step was taken in April with the implementation of this police plan. “The objective is prevention, to inform clients about prostitution that can often be victims of sexual exploitation, because socially they are not considered victims, even many times they do not consider themselves victims, this is not leisure, it is a crime and it is important that citizens will raise awareness and report to the police any signs you see , “he told 20Minutos a head of the Center of Intelligence and Risk Analysis Unit Illegal Immigration Networks and Falsified Documents (UCRIF) inspector.
Anonymity, a plus
Since April, 214 telephone calls (900.10.50.90 ) and 77 emails ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) have been sent to the National Police, which have allowed the beginning of 20 investigations and the resolution of three cases . The majority, anonymous denunciations of citizens. And is that this anonymity is a plus for people to encourage to denounce. “The plan, with a strong campaign in means of transport, is serving so that the clients of the prostitution assume that they are in many occasions witnesses of a criminal activity “, they emphasize in the UCRIF.
The police usually visit places where there can potentially be victims: local hostesses, industrial estates and roads (easier to detect and control) and appointment houses (much more opaque). According to Eurostat, Spain is the second country in Europe, behind Italy, with more victims. In 2009, the Police detected 6,157 people as possible victims, although in the end it only identified 1,301 (21%). In 2010 the ratio was 15,075 people detected, 1,641 identified (10.8%), and 2011 was closed with 14,370 victims detected and only 1,082 identified (7.5%).
In 2012, some 12,300 forced prostitution women have been located, although the police estimate that “it is one third of what is really in Spain”, about 37,000 . What is clear is that much remains to be done. In the twelve months of 2012 and the first three months of 2013, the Police and Civil Guard have carried out 368 operations against sexual exploitation , arresting 1,108 people responsible for these crimes. And in the first two months of the plan (from April 17 to June 17), another 47 operations opened before the plan were completed, with 236 detainees. As for the organized groups dedicated to prostitution, in 2010 17 were dismantled and in 2011, 35 . A crime that always coexists with other criminal offenses such as extortion, kidnapping, sexual assault, coercion, threats, money laundering and forgery.
Romanian, Paraguayan, Nigerian or Chinese
Now comes the profile of the small pimp, usually Romanian, who exploits a few girls. What is clear is that the profile of the victim is that of a young and foreign woman. Especially from Romania, Paraguay, Brazil, Nigeria, China and Russia. 80% come from Eastern Europe and South America. Romanians, for example, are between 18 and 32 years old. Brazilians are older, between 33 and 42 years old. “Now the Chinese prostitution mafias, very closed, that regulate houses of appointments with a Chinese client, have opened to a more international client,” say UCRIF sources. The great networks, which continue to exist, have also given way to the profile of a small pimp , Romanian, who associates with relatives, to prostitute few girls and to have them always controlled. The Association for the Prevention, Reintegration and Attention to Prostituted Women (APRAMP) already warned that “the demand” requests each time younger prostitutes.
The big networks do not hesitate to use violence, intimidation, threat . The last major operations this year show this. At the end of April, eleven people were arrested in Spain to run appointment houses in four northern cities: Santander, Pamplona, Bilbao and Vitoria. A hundred Paraguayan women had passed through them. The pimps had confiscated in Paraguay the documents of ownership of the few properties that they left in their country, as bail while they returned the prostituted debt contracted. “In the South American networks it is normal to even endorse the trip to Spain with the parents’ apartments” , they explain in the UCRIF.
This June, a Nigerian organization that brought women in boats across the Straits and prostituted them in Barcelona and Malaga fell. To prevent them from fleeing, they were threatened with voodoo , “typical of these networks.” They also resorted to biting and burning them with an iron . “Nigerians can be twelve to thirteen years selling their bodies until they repay the debt.” In the UCRIF also remember the Romanian network disarticulated in March 2012 that had the girls tied to radiators and that they tattooed a bar code with their debt in the arm . Those who misbehaved, shaved their hair and eyebrows.
On Monday, July 1, the police announced that they had dismantled two important Chinese networks that rivaled the control of prostitution in the south of Madrid. There are 26 detainees and 25 girls released, some of them minors. They came to Spain deceived by the false promise of a job in which they would earn 4,000 euros a month. Once in our country, they withdrew their passport and forced them to prostitute themselves for a year to repay the debt of the trip. They lived crowded in very small rooms, without windows or locks , always controlled by the members of the networks.
Convincing them that there is exit
Everyone admits that although the client can be made aware, the difficult part is to help the victims. “We have to convince them that there is an exit, either an assisted return to their country or stay in Spain with a residence and work permit,” says the UCRIF chief inspector. The fear of what happens to them or their families is behind the fact that very few accept the benefits granted by the law if they denounce their pimps (the residency permit and the character of a protected witness). In fact, in 2011 (latest data), of the 770 women who thought to take that step (they have 30 days of reflection period, extendable to 60), only 98 did it finally. Despite the low number, it was better than in 2010, when only 21 of the 219 women did. Now, with the plan, 291 women have already been helped .
The Minsiterio del Interior can not offer them a job. There are many non-profit organizations for this purpose: psychological, economic and health care : Apramp, Cruz Blanca, Médicos del Mundo … are just some of them. Marta González, coordinator of Proyecto Esperanza, recounts the obstacles that many of these victims have when asking for help. “We must bear in mind that they have been exploited, threatened, assaulted, assaulted … They have lived isolated, they have another language, they do not know that there is help, a future, another perspective, they see the Police with a wrong vision due to the type Police they have known in their countries, they have no documentation, they have instilled fear. “
The NGOs denounce that the period of reflection for the victims to denounce is short. The key, according to González, is to offer them protection and confidence, to cover their needs and to be patient , “to make them understand that they can have help”. For this NGO 90 women pass each year, 99% foreign. The main problem is that the period of reflection that the victims have is very short . “It does not work for their social and labor insertion, only to decide with advice and protection if they want to denounce and be able to continue in Spain,” says González.
The immigration law allows victims to obtain a residence permit without having to collaborate with the courts, based on their personal situation . “In some cases it is so evident that they are unprotected victims who would not need to give information to the police to stay in Spain, but little is encouraged this way.” Of the two cases so we have proposed, both have been denied “, Marta González sentence. The UCRIF explains that it tries, when it presents its evidence before the judge, that the declaration of the victims is not necessary to blame the pimps. “It is true that they live isolated and frightened and do not therefore have a broad vision of the network that exploits them.”
Without accommodation places
Another problem is the scarcity of accommodation places throughout the country to care for victims of trafficking. Only 397 places, according to the latest report of the Ombudsman. This body criticizes that there are provinces where there is not. Half of these places are in Madrid and Andalusia. And of the 41 centers that exist, only seven are specialized in victims of sexual exploitation .
The steps are given, albeit slowly. For the first time in its history, the National Court (which is dedicated to large cases of organized crime) will prosecute the owners of hostess clubs where they were forced to prostitute themselves, without condoms, to Russian women. The judge has charged 20 people accused of crimes against the rights of women workers, trafficking in human beings, money laundering, illegal immigration and documentary falsification. “There are other three or four causes that can soon see the light also in the Hearing,” say legal sources.