Forced labour accounts for 98 percent of cases of modern slavery in Russia. Made up of both Russian and foreign workers, particularly from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan, these people are enslaved in the agricultural and construction sectors, in factories, private homes, forestry, automotive and fishing industries. Russia also stands as the second largest migrant receiving country in the world, these migrant workers often rely on underground networks and intermediaries, not knowing exactly what work they are committing to. Increased unemployment, poverty and demands for cheap labour among Russian citizens, along with the flow of cross-border migration has created new pockets of vulnerability and opportunities for labour exploitation in the country. Wanting to live independently Oleg took a job he found in a newspaper. Oleg was taken from Moscow along with other men to an unknown location. Forced to live and work in unsanitary and dangerous conditions, the men were threatened with violence at any suggestion of resistance. With the help of one of the bus drivers, Oleg was eventually able to escape and make his way back to home.
Olga was lured to Israel from Russia by a female acquaintance in 1998. After socialism was dismantled in the USSR in 1991, “transition countries”—nations that moved from socialism to capitalism—saw an explosion in the export of men, women and children as slaves. The US government believes that as many as 100,000 women are trafficked throughout the 15 former Soviet countries annually and sold into international prostitution. Russian women are trafficked to over 50 countries for commercial sexual exploitation, including countries in Central and Western Europe and the Middle East. In Israel, where Olga was trafficked into sex slavery, women are trafficked from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan, and Belarus. NGOs estimate that in 2005 between 1000 and 3000 women were trafficked into Israel for sexual servitude. Olga’s narrative recounts the experience of forced drug addition. This is one of several control mechanisms used by traffickers, along with intimidation and threats, violence, torture and rape, starvation, blackmail, debt bondage, and social isolation. Another control mechanism is identity control: victims of sex trafficking are often given new names and appearances to demonstrate that the traffickers not only own them but have created a new person for sexual exploitation. Olga’s narrative includes details of this particular control mechanism, describing the loss of her name. One final moment of identity loss then comes toward the end of her narrative, with her pretence of being Muslim in order to seek protection.
Masha was trafficked to Germany from Russia and enslaved in sex work when she was 24 years old. She was kept prisoner and her passport was withheld from her to prevent her from escaping, but was later arrested in a police raid, which gave her the opportunity to return to Russia. Masha recalls that the German police did not try to understand her situation but simply treated her as a criminal. Another narrative from Masha is available in the archive.
Masha was trafficked into Germany from Russia, where traffickers abduct an estimated 55,000 women each year. Corrupt police officers and border guards reportedly accept bribes to facilitate trafficking. She was kept prisoner and her passport was withheld from her to prevent her from escaping, but was later arrested in a police raid, which gave her the opportunity to return to Russia. Masha recalls that the German police did not try to understand her situation but simply treated her as a criminal. Another narrative from Masha is available in the archive.
Irina V. was trafficked into Germany from Russia, where traffickers abduct an estimated 55,000 women each year. She was taken along the so-called “Eastern Route” through Poland. This is a key overland corridor for trafficking women into the EU from Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and the Baltics. Her narrative grapples with the fact that her enslavers “continue to traffic women” and also outlines a more practical problem. Upon her escape, she “began a long, terrible process of multiple questionings and misunderstandings,” was placed in prison for three months, and only received assistance from an NGO.