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Eastern European women dreaming of a better life in the Netherlands are being forced into prostitution in The Hague, the seat of international justice. Credit: Edin Pasovic. Every morning, the family Eszter was staying with woke her up and hurried her off to the tram to work.
She was allowed home at night only after having brought in euros. Sometimes she worked 16 hours straight, watched by an in-law to keep her in line. If Eszter came home especially late, her hosts — a family she had known since her childhood in Hungary — would tell her to keep her shower short. She had to be rested for another long day of prostitution.
The Hague is home to the U. Credit: International Court of Justice. The self-declared Royal City by the Sea is also one of many places in Western Europe where women are forced to sit behind windows and offer sexual services to passersby. Estzer was brought there by a family of four sisters, a brother, and four of their spouses, all of whom were convicted in local court in March of human trafficking, money laundering, and being part of a criminal organization.
Case documents provide an unusually vivid and detailed look at how women are trafficked into the Netherlands, and kept pliant through fabricated debts and real threats. Many are from Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, European Union member states where poverty is still rife and travel to Western Europe is unrestricted. Hungarian trafficking victims can be hard to help, because they do not readily step forward, are not well represented in Dutch society, and are easily moved between Hungary and the Netherlands, said Ina Hut, director of CoMensha, a non-profit that monitors and raises awareness of human trafficking.
The other perpetrators got as little five months. What is clear is that Family B. Over the course of about four years, they lured around 20 young women from Hungary to the Netherlands, according to prosecutors, promising riches through easy work and the prospect of upward mobility. Once their victims arrived in The Hague, they were forced to sit behind display windows and offer sexual services, and to surrender most or all of their earnings.