Children aged from six to 15, from the Roma minority and orphans are at greatest risk of being dragged into trafficking for sexual exploitation, according to Antoaneta Vassileva of Bulgaria’s national commission for combating trafficking in human beings.
Vassileva was speaking at a conference held at the National Assembly building on October 26, that brought together various state institutions and NGOs to discuss the problem of people trafficking.
Bulgaria was a transit country for trafficking of people to Germany, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland, she said. Children trafficked for sex also were used for begging and pick-pocketing.
Tove Skarstein, the ambassador of Norway, said that about 70 per cent of the victims of people trafficking were women and children, but also most of the traffickers were women. "That’s why the situation with human trafficking is not black and white, there are women on both sides of the barrier," media reports quoted her as saying.
She said that work was needed to improve the socio-economic situation in countries and regions that were the largest-scale sources of victims of people trafficking. At the same time, Skarstein highlighted the good work being done with Bulgaria’s law enforcement authorities in preventing and combating human trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Vassileva said that last year there had been an increase in juvenile victims, but at the same time there had been a higher rate of convictions.
According to a report by NGO Risk Monitor, foreign tourists pay about 50 to 99 euro for sexual services in Bulgaria, news website Focus said.
A survey by the NGO found that every second tourist in Bulgaria had been offered paid sexual services, with a fifth saying that the offers had come from street sex workers.
The Risk Monitor report said that in Sofia, the sex industry generated about 30 to 60 million leva a year. The industry in Bulgaria’s capital city was controlled by four major "chains" holding most of the market share.
The chains had establishments in the city centre and in the relatively wealthy suburbs on slopes of Vitosha mountain. Fees varied from 300 leva an hour up to 1000 leva.
Prostitutes in massage parlours, clubs, VIP houses, motels, hotels and strip clubs earned on average 2000 to 5000 leva a month, with this reportedly split 50:50 between the sex worker and the club.
The sex industry is linked to organised crime, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov was quoted as telling the conference.
There were 236 locations being used for sex work, according to figures quoted by Tsvetanov, and 1326 women working as prostitutes.
Bulgaria was in third place in trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, he said.