Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Ukrainian women freed from sexual slavery in Turkey thanks to phone tip-off

Source: Agence France-Presse English Wire

GENEVA, Aug 5 (AFP) - Five Ukrainian women who were tortured and imprisoned in a basement by sex traffickers in Turkey have been freed thanks to a special telephone hotline, the International Organisation for Migration said Friday.

The women -- one of whom was held for six years -- were set to return to Ukraine after being rescued by Turkish police following a call to the "157" hotline, which is run by the IOM, the Geneva-based organisation said.

"This case is one of the worst instances of trafficking we have documented in Turkey," said IOM official Marielle Sander Lindstrom in a statement.

The women, who were forced into prostitution, were tortured with boiling oil and kept in a windowless basement near the southern resort town of Antalya.

However, one managed to call the hotline using a mobile telephone belonging to a client or trafficker, and they were freed on August 1, said the IOM.

Turkish police rescued a further five victims of trafficking on August 3 in the southern city of Mersin, again thanks to a call to the hotline, the IOM added.

They had also been tortured and kept in a basement.

"Our greatest concern is that these cases taken together may represent a new level of cruelty and torture inflicted on trafficked individuals," said Sander Lindstrom.

Launched in May and aimed mainly at women from former communist countries, the hotline is staffed by Russian, Romanian and Turkish speakers who pass on to the police emergency calls from victims, as well tip-offs from other people.

Impoverished women from eastern Europe are lured to Turkey by criminal gangs with promises of well-paid jobs, but many are later forced into prostitution or other jobs in the underground labour market.

The IOM said it was offering the Ukrainian women help to rebuild their lives at home, including medical and pyschological support, legal aid, family and housing allowances and education or business grants.

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