ATHENS – While prostitution is legal and monitored in Greece, the police Organized Crime and Human Trafficking unit said it had cracked a racket forcing migrant women into the business, arresting 13 suspects and issuing arrest warrants for another 12.
Police raids in Athens, in the southern Peloponnese and on the holiday island of Mykonos were conducted, said Kathimerini, after authorities said members of the gang would smuggle women into Greece, mainly from Eastern Europe, enticing them with legitimate jobs before the victims discovered they would be forced to work as prostitutes.
Their passports, travel documents and other identification papers were stripped from them to keep them from escaping and they were forced by violence to work in night clubs and engage in sex acts with the traffickers and pimps keeping the money.
The gang also supplied brothels and strip clubs in other parts of the country with women from its human trafficking network, the paper reported police said.
To legalize their statues, they would arrange for the women to conduct civil unions with men they would locate and pay and gang members reportedly would even sue women who tried to challenge them and undermine their credibility if they went to the police.
Investigators said they have evidence that the gang exploited at least 25 women in the last six months.
Greece’s eight-year-long economic crisis has led to a jump in the number of women engaging in prostitution, which is legal, although there are reportedly far more being sexually trafficked against their will, many from other countries.
A study by Athens’ Panteion University released in June found there’s also been a jump in the number of customers who simply have to look for the state-allowed studios with white lights on their doors, signaling they are approved brothels.
According to the results of the research, the rise in prostitution began after 2010, coinciding with the social and cultural implications of Greece’s financial and migration crisis, said Kathimerini, which brought harsh austerity and more than 64,000 refugees and migrants to the country.
The number of women engaging in prostitution rose from 17,000 in 2012 to 18,200 in 2017, the survey said, with the number of clients soaring from 435,000 to 605,000 even though men and women offer sex free through online chat rooms and other social media.
Migrant clients also increased dramatically to 160,000 in 2017, compared to 14,000 in 2012, with many from countries where prostitution is not lawful and women have few rights at all.
The increase was seen across the board – in houses, studios and on the streets. The study further showed that rates for services have also decreased significantly.
Greek laws don’t even account for male prostitutes and various reports have said that many older men engage young migrant men in Athens’ Omonia Square for paid sex. Even underage migrant boys reportedly have taken to prostitution or forced into it.
In February, Greek police said they had broken up a gang that procured foreign women via a website and arrested 12 people. Among the victims of the gang was a young teenager from Bulgaria although it wasn’t reported whether she was underage.