Despite having the lowest regional prevalence of modern slavery in the world, Europe remains a destination, and to a lesser extent, a source region for the exploitation of men, women and children in forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. According to the most recent Eurostat findings, European Union (EU) citizens account for 65 percent of identified trafficked victims within Europe. These individuals mostly originate from Eastern Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia. In Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Parliament has identified corruption and the judicial system as reform challenges towards accession talks within the EU. In Greece, the turbulent economic situation has increased vulnerability for populations seeking employment and livelihood opportunities. In Greece, unemployment reached 24.4 percent in January 2016 with a youth unemployment rate of 51.9 percent. The story told by “Anastasia” has elements of both sexual exploitation and domestic servitude perpetrated by her parents on her as a child.
In 2002, my older sister married and moved to her own home and I was left alone with my parents. It was very hard for me. I had to keep the house by myself because my mother is an alcoholic and used to go away from home for days. My father is very strict and I had to learn how to cook, to wash, to do everything in the household, while my father worked in the field.
Starting with the age of 16 my life turned to disaster. We had no money for bread but a lot of small debts to neighbours. My mother started pressuring me to go to the city and ask friends for money. Meanwhile, I met another girl who, at the disco, introduced me to all kinds of boys. All the money I earned was brought home and the entire family lived on it. My mother pretended to know nothing. But she did not ask me where the money was coming from, when should it be paid back, etc. And instead, she put pressure on me to bring more.
I’ve been working since I was a little girl and I’ve tried to do everything for my parents to love me. At 12 years old I was doing everything that needs to be done in the house, I was taking care of my brothers and sisters. My mother was ill. She had a caesarean operation and didn’t do anything anymore. My youngest brother was ill and my mother stayed with him in the hospital, so I cooked, I washed the clothes and the children, I cleaned. Even the neighbours in the apartment building noticed and wondered how I could keep the house for the entire family.
My father would call them (business owners) on the phone and I had to go and collect the money. Or, my father would call the priests and they allowed me to beg in front of the church... I also did all the chores in the household because my mother came tired from work and all she did was cook. I was doing all the rest and I was taking care of the little one, too. And when I came with the money, my father used to give me a beating and say that it was short, that I had stolen some for sure. And my mother would let him. She was just like him. If he didn’t start a fight, she would start it.
[While living in a Western country] My mother said she was ill, my father [an invalid] was begging sometimes, and I was working selling newspapers. We found all kinds of supplies in garbage cans. My mother went to the cans only when my father made her... Life was so bad...Until one evening when my father told me to go and make money, to walk the street. I refused and my mother said to me to come to my senses and they both trashed me with a crowbar.
As told to UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre