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Organised prostitution networks have been active throughout Macedonia for at least a decade. The number of prostitutes currently working in the country is believed to be somewhere between 1, and 2, The trade is thought to generate profits of between and million German marks per year for its organisers.
An owner of a bar or nightclub with five prostitutes could feasibly earn around 40, to 50, German marks per month. The potential for such fiscal power to corrupt civil servants, the police or even to help with the election of an amenable candidate to Parliament is very real. The economic rewards from organised prostitution are substantial, which tempts an ever-increasing number of people into the business.
Illegal networks facilitating the trafficking in women have sprung up throughout the country. They operate on a supply and demand basis, and oversee the distribution of prostitutes to various countries, including Western Europe, as well as in Macedonia itself. Austrian police estimate around 3, Eastern European prostitutes operate in Vienna alone. In April one raid in the Austrian capital freed 20 Hungarian and Slovak women from forced prostitution.
The business was run by Yugoslav and Turkish criminal gangs. In February of the same year German police in North Rhine-Westphalia raided 20 brothels, nightclubs and flats, liberating 24 women. But Serbia is also an increasing source of new recruits. The women are often deceived into believing they are coming to the West to work as dancers, waitresses, or even striptease artists.
But even those who understand they are to work as prostitutes do not anticipate the slave-like conditions awaiting them. To avoid detection by the authorities the women often enter the country disguised as tourists in small groups of around five. The new arrivals are accompanied by their 'agents', which cater for 'orders' coming from the illegal brothels.