The trade in young women, primarily from eastern Europe, is well-organized and well-established in Skåne, Skånska Dagbladet writes. Most of the women are between 15 and 20, and most frequently come from Slovakia, Romania or Poland.
“We’re concerned that the trade is here to stay,” says Thomas Servin, head of the intelligence unit at the county police headquarters in Malmö.
The women and girls are usually lured from poor homes with promises of well-paid work as cleaners or waitresses. When they arrive they are forced into prostitution using threats and violence. The pimps are often natives of their own countries, but Swedes are also involved in the exploitation. They often cooperate with a contact person based in the women’s homelands.
Police have received information indicating that the sex trade is active in Helsingborg, Hässleholm, Landskrona and Malmö.
“The problem is persuading the affected women to testify,” said Servin.
The sex traders threaten both the women and their families if they go to the police. As the women have not committed a crime, they cannot be forced to stay in Sweden to testify.
It is not known how many women are victims of the sex trade in Sweden. Police across the country received reports of 44 cases last year, of which only 4 were in Skåne.
Breaking the criminal gangs involved in the trade is difficult. Sex customers, who themselves are guilty of criminal offences, are usually reluctant to testify. The pressure on the women, together with language difficulties and previous bad experiences of police in their home countries, also makes it hard for them to come forward.
Prosecutors also face problems in proving that the women have not become prostitutes willingly. The government has ordered a report on what can be done to make prosecutions easier.