Monday, 2 May 2011

Romanian Psychologist Stages Kidnappings to Save Human Sex Trafficking V... Learn what countries Romania gets girls from, how Iana Matei has saved over 400 girls lives, and how Romania is doing on combating human sex trafficking.

Today's trafficking report is on Romania. The U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking lists Romania in Tier two. This means that the Government of Romania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. However, it is making significant efforts to do so.

Romania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. As a destination country, Romania receives women and children from Moldova, Colombia, and France who are forced into prostitution.
To better understand the issue of sex trafficking in Romania, we are featuring a recent article , Rescuing Young women from Traffickers' Hands which appeared in the New York Times on October 16th, 2010 and can be found on our blog.
This article detailed the efforts of Ms. Iana Matei, Romania's leading advocate for the victims of sex trafficking. For more than 10 years, Matei, a psychologist by training, has been pulling young women out of the hands of traffickers, sometimes by staging "kidnappings," and other times by offering victims a place to stay, heal and rebuild their lives. Until a few years ago, Matei's shelter was the only one in Romania for victims of traffickers, though the country has been a center for the trade in young girls for decades. Too often, she said, Romanians see the young women as nothing more than prostitutes. "They are victims," she said. "They are too young to be anything else."
These victims of trafficking are almost always from poor, abusive families and the girls are sometimes sold into the trade by their own parents. Some are lured to foreign countries with promises of jobs or marriage. But once out of the country, they are sold to gangs and locked up in brothels or forced to work the streets.
Matei has been critical of Romania's current services for victims which allow only a maximum ten day stay in the government-run shelters. Most of the young women who arrive at her shelter, where they can stay for up to a year, are in a terrible state, she said. The victims are so out of sorts that even making the smallest decision like what to wear is very difficult for them.
A few times traffickers have showed up at Matei's shelter — a spare house in a residential neighborhood surrounded by a high fence — trying to get the girls back. Once, Matei said, she confronted them in the narrow street outside, using her car to block their vehicle.
Confirming Matei's belief that Romania has lagged behind in addressing trafficking issues, we note that U.S. State Department reports that the Government of Romania significantly decreased its efforts to protect and assist victims of trafficking during the 2009 reporting period. In 2009 the government provided no funding for anti-trafficking and victim-service NGOs, compared with $270,000 provided to four NGOs in 2008. This lack of government funding caused a significant decrease in the number of victims assisted by both government agencies and NGOs.
Over the years, she has cobbled together all sorts of financing, pleading with various embassies. Right now, the shelter is supported by an American ministry dedicated to combating human trafficking, Make Way Partners in Birmingham, Ala. But Matei would like to see it become self-sustaining. In the meantime, she makes do. More than 400 girls have stayed in the shelter, and many of them have kept in touch with Matei, the woman who offered them a new life.

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