Moldova is a small temperate continental European country. A tiny sliver of land just 13,000 square miles (compared to the UK at 94,000 square miles), Moldova is landlocked, being surrounded by the Ukraine on one side, and Romania on the other. Estimates place the countries population at a little over 4 million. With large areas of arable land and very rich soil, Moldova’s major industry is agriculture, and it’s countryside is mostly gently rolling hills, the highest point being a mere 430 metres above sea level. Moldova has some very high quality vineyards, and produces some very good wines.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? The truth however is very different from the figures. Moldova is Europe’s poorest country. It officially became a nation state in its own right when the USSR was broken up in 1991. Ironically, with its wine production and industrial factories feeding the mighty Red Army war machine, Moldova was considered to be one of the richest areas in the Soviet Union. Since the collapse of communism, the factories have fallen silent, and with years of poor farming methods and banned chemicals like DDT, their wine and other agricultural crops are not accepted in rich Western markets, and instead are sold cheap to other Eastern European countries. With very little natural resources, Moldova imports almost all its fuel from Russia for exorbitant prices the country can barely afford to pay. The country itself is split in two, with the North Eastern region having broken away and declared itself an independent state in 1990, before Moldova even existed. This area, called Transnistria, is populated mostly by Slavic people, defended by Russian military forces. Transnistria is considered to be a lawless and illegal separatist regime by the legitimate Moldovan government, and by the rest of the world.
As already stated, there are a little over 4 million Moldovan citizens. Roughly half that number makes up the available Moldovan workforce. Of those 2 million potential workers, a full third live and work abroad, either legally or illegally. Among the remaining 1.3 million or so (of which a substantial chunk are unemployed), the average daily wage is less than 2 American dollars per day (UK workers on average earn about 30 times more). This all adds up to a very bleak picture of Moldova, and while deeply disturbing, it is perhaps no great surprise that criminal enterprises are thriving in Moldova, and its current major export is young woman destined for the international sex trade.
Moldova is a Tier 2 Watch List country. The Tier system was implemented by the US Department of State as a means of classifying different countries’ efforts to curtail human trafficking within their borders. Tier 1 countries (such as the UK, US and Australia) are countries in full compliance with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Tier 2 countries are those countries that have made significant efforts to comply with TVPA, countries such as Portugal, Mexico and Japan. Tier 2 Watch list countries are those that do not comply with the TVPA but are making significant efforts to do so, and where the number of people affected by trafficking is significantly high. Large portions of Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia fall within the Tier 2 watch list. Tier 3 countries are those that are making no effort at all to curtail human trafficking, and includes such places as North Korea, Iran and Cuba.
Since 1991, it is estimated that anything between 200,000 and 400,000 Moldovan woman and children (96% female, 4% male) have been trafficked out of Moldova and forced into the sex industry throughout the world. That’s up to a staggering 10% of the country’s population, a simply mind boggling number of victims. The major markets for Moldovan woman include the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (particularly Dubai). These women are lured away from Moldova on the promise of jobs abroad, usually waitressing, au-pair work, hotel hospitality etc. When they arrive at their destination they are generally beaten and raped until their spirit is broken, and then sold on to pimps and criminal enterprises around the world and forced into prostitution. Experts report that someone trafficked in this manner can earn for their masters anything up to a little over $67,000 per year, and the total worldwide trade in sex trafficking is estimated at anything between $30 and $45 billion US dollars per year.
One of the major targets for sex trafficking are young Moldovan orphans who are turned out of the orphanage at 16 or 17, with no real prospects, hope for a future, not even a place to live. It is not unknown for orphanage officials to tip off traffickers about these girls, so the traffickers are ready and waiting to sweep them up into a life of sexual slavery the likes of which normal people cannot possibly imagine. Most of these young girls don’t have a chance, and by the time they are 20, they are veterans of the sex trade, often with permanent disabilities, scars or diseases as a result of their brutal existence. The evil is widespread, with government and police corruption protecting traffickers in return for money or “freebies”, and even at the family level, husbands selling wives, fathers selling daughters, boyfriends selling girlfriends into lives of ultimate horror and degradation. The industry is so twisted that there have even been cases of women returning home free from a life of sexual slavery, allowed to go by their masters on the promise that they arrange for one or two replacement girls to take their place. The worst part is that they often deliver, conning sisters, cousins, neighbours and friends with tales of high living standards, good pay and promises that they wont be forced to do anything they don’t want to.
So what can be done? It’s a hard question to answer, as the underlying problems of Moldova’s lack of economic and political stability are not issues that can be solved overnight. All we can really do is try to protect those at highest risk of becoming victims of the sex trade. The New Hope Trust is attempting to do this on two fronts. Firstly, we run an orphanage of around 120 Moldovan orphans, providing them with food and clothing, medical supplies and hygiene products, and also educating them in the dangers of the sex trade and how to avoid being caught up in it. Secondly, we run a series of safehouses for young Moldovan women who have been turned out of the Orphanages. These safehouses become their homes, with clean clothes, food, education, medical supplies, everything they need to give their lives some hope, and give them a safe future. We have two complete safehouses up and running, and the third will be opening soon. We have also purchased land for a fourth. For more information on the Orphanage and Stella’s Houses, see the Humanitarian Aid section of the website.
This is a monumental task to undertake alone, however, and we are completely reliant on members of the public to help fund our humanitarian agenda. There are a number of ways in which you can assist us, some even at no cost to yourself. If you live in the North East of Scotland then you could donate all kinds of textiles and furniture to us, or you could come spend money in The Barn on site here at Faith Acres. If you are a business or oganisation you could hire our conferencing facilities. If you live outwith the North East of Scotland you can always donate online, or if you are in to internet shopping, you could try shopping with us. If you have any other ideas on how you can help us out, you are more than welcome to contact us and let us know.
Human Trafficking is a world-wide problem, and it even happens right here in the UK. We are more of a destination than a source of trafficking, but it certainly does still go on. There has recently been an excellent 3-part documentary on Channel 4 about the sex trafficking industry in the UK, and we recommend you watch it.
The entire series can be found online here: The Hunt for Britain’s Sex Traffickers.
The entire series can be found online here: The Hunt for Britain’s Sex Traffickers.
There were also a number of webpages used for source material for this article, and a few of the better ones are linked here so you can continue your reading about the trafficking industry and just how serious a problem it is.
- MSNBC Article: MSNBC article and video on their 4 month investigation into the European sex trade.
- Moldova Sex Trade Links: A collection of links to various articles about the Moldovan sex trade.
- New Yorker Article: An excellent article on those fighting against the sex trade in Moldova.
- CIA World Factbook: The American Central Intelligence Agency world factbook entry on Moldova.
- Wikipedia: The main Wikipedia article on human trafficking.