There are an estimated 794,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Russia (GSI 2018). Forced labour remains the predominant form of human trafficking in the country. Labour trafficking has been reported in the construction, manufacturing, logging, textile, and maritime industries, as well as in sawmills, agriculture, sheep farms, grocery and retail shops, restaurants, waste sorting, street sweeping, domestic service, and forced begging. Many migrant workers experience exploitative labour conditions characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of identity documents, non-payment for services rendered, physical abuse, lack of safety measures, or extremely poor living conditions.
Alina*, a 23-year-old woman from the Ukraine was involved in voluntary prostitution and subsequent commercial sexual exploitation.
I came [to Russia] two and a half years ago. I was born in Zshitomir city. I finished school, then secondary school. My profession is as a cook, but I worked at a local market. Three years ago I became acquainted with a man called Vladimir. I began living with him in a civil marriage. Vladimir is a builder, a parquet floor layer. In 2001, he and his friends decided to work on house construction for a “new Russian” in Stavropol. My mother has brought me up alone, as my father abandoned her when I was three years old, and then he drank himself to ruin. The family was constantly lacking money. In 2001, I came together with Vladimir and his friends, and we all lived in a temporary shelter. Vladimir began drinking with his friends. We became short of money. He even began proposing that I sleep with his friends for money. Once when we were sitting on the premises of a company and were drinking, one of his friends came with a girl - a prostitute who worked at the hotel Caucasus in Stavropol. I made friends with her, left Vladimir and moved to her apartment, I began live and work together with her.
I work five days a week. My working day begins in the evening. An hour costs 300 Roubles. Out of this I pay 50 roubles to a driver, 150 to a pimp and I keep 100 Roubles for myself. I have my passport with me. I had a temporary registration, but in the last two months I haven’t had time to register. I can freely go shopping, or to the market during the day. We have a driver, he drives us to clients.
So far I haven’t been in that situation [to try to leave]. But I know a girl who wanted to leave. They beat her cruelly. It all depends on who you work for.
About once a month a company of policemen arrives and the girls have to work free of charge, it is called “subbotnik”. Due to this, there are no problems with the police. If problems arise, the pimp somehow manages to settle them; everything runs smoothly. Pimps often force girls to work for certain people free of charge. Sometimes you have to sleep with a pimp, for free of course. Sometimes they bring a client to your flat and you dislike them, they’re drunk or ugly, but they tell you to do whatever they want or they insult you or raise their hand against you. If you refuse, they might just beat you, it’s as simple as that. There were cases like that. Once, for example, they told us they were bringing us two clients, but eight men appeared.
I am a cook, but I have no experience in this field. In reality I can receive here 1500 [Roubles] as a maximum. But you have also to pay rent and for food. There are not so many options for those without experience. A couple of times I contacted restaurants for a job but they did not take me on. They said that they needed experienced cooks. Market traders here receive little as well, there is no possibility to rent an apartment. I now receive enough money for food and clothing. Of course I would prefer a normal profession, not so dirty. But I see no real opportunities to obtain a good job. If somebody would propose it to me, of course, I would abandon [my current job].
Of course, it is difficult psychologically. You feel dirty that nobody needs you. Just you feel that they are constantly using you. But I think that it will not last forever, I will earn money and come back to Ukraine. And nobody will learn. Maybe, before, I’ll go to Moscow to work, girls are earning not bad money there.
A couple of times I have received treatment for venereal diseases. We have a skin and venereal disease clinic at our doctor’s.
Narrative credit to International Labour Organization
Original narrative found in report ‘Forced Labour in the Russian Federation Today: Irregular Migration and Trafficking in Human Beings’