Trafficking in Humans Is on Rise

Mafias Play Key Role in Illegal Immigration

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FRASCATI, Italy, AUG. 3, 2001 ( Trafficking in illegal immigrants, some of them doomed for a life of prostitution, is a $10 billion-a-year trade, participants at a conference near Rome heard.

The conference, on «The Reorganization of the Mafias: The Business of Illegal Immigrants,» is designed to find answers to the rise of the abuse of illegal immigrants in industrialized countries. The conference near Rome ends Saturday.

Among the participants is Father Beniamino Rossi, European superior of the St. Charles Missionaries, who work with immigrants throughout the world. In his address at the conference, Father Rossi called for effective legislation to deal with the problem.

–Q: Are we facing a new phenomenon?

–Father Rossi: The question of organizations that place illegal workers in the labor market of some rich countries is not a totally new phenomenon. For more than 20 years, several organizations have sent hundreds of thousands, not to say millions, of immigrants from Mexico and Latin America to the United States.

What seems more dangerous today is the fact that this traffic in illegal immigrants is now controlled by genuine criminal organizations, which could be called new mafias. This is a phenomenon that occurs especially in Europe and Asia.

–Q: The illegal immigrants are often used as manual labor by the new mafias. In what capacity?

–Father Rossi: For example, it is said that some 30,000 Albanian women prostitute themselves in Europe. It is believed that some 50,000 women — some say 60,000 — who come from Eastern Europe, particularly Russia and Ukraine, are used by the so-called Russian mafia, which places them in European markets.

Another case is that of the Turkish mafia, which takes Kurds, Moroccans and Algerians on a route that passes through Istanbul, and then puts them on ships to take them to the Italian coast.

This traffic of prostitution, and of all those who try to escape from desperate situations of war or real attacks against life, obviously yields money. These people don´t go to Europe or other countries for free; they have to pay very great amounts, which range from $2,000 to $4,000 per person.

Therefore, this means there is a new business valued at $10 billion, which is combined with the drug traffic.

–Q: When the illegal immigrants arrive in Europe, do they know that they run the risk of becoming part of illicit organizations or do they believe that their future will be different?

–Father Rossi: According to some studies, with reference to prostitutes, for example, between 15-20% know more or less what awaits them; while between 60-80% come in response to the promise of a good job, a normal job. However, in this way they enter this world of blackmail from which it is very difficult to escape, although in recent times solutions are being sought in Europe.

It is curious and tragic that these «traders in human flesh,» as Father Giovanni Battista Scalabrini called them at the end of the 19th century, have a very simple strategy: They destroy these people´s documents; so, if they are detained by the police, they cannot be identified. This is a great problem for the authorities, because if they are to extradite or expel them, they do not know to what country they should send them.

–Q: What solution could be offered to avoid the phenomenon of illegal immigrants?

–Father Rossi: It is necessary to make far greater efforts. Illegal immigrants must not be regarded as criminals; rather, the «traders in human flesh» must be pursued far more seriously and tenaciously. Otherwise, it would be like jailing those who smoke contraband cigarettes while leaving the contrabandists free.

Illegal immigrants are the victims of this traffic; they are not criminals. The real criminals are others who, in addition, make conspicuous profits. It is from here that the need stems to begin greater cooperation and obtain more specific and severe legislation against this type of market. The latter is certainly illegal, not the clandestine individual.

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