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Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                         

Republic of Bulgaria

Bulgaria, a former Communist country that entered the EU on 1 January 2007, has experienced strong growth since a major economic downturn in 1996. Successive governments have demonstrated a commitment to economic reforms and responsible fiscal planning, but have failed so far to rein in rising inflation and large current account deficits. Bulgaria has averaged more than 6% growth since 2004, attracting significant amounts of foreign direct investment, but corruption in the public administration, a weak judiciary, and the presence of organized crime remain significant challenges. [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a source, transit, and, to a lesser extent, a destination country for men, women, and children from Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania trafficked to and through Bulgaria to Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Norway, the Czech Republic, Poland, Greece, Turkey, and Macedonia for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Ethnic Roma women and children remain highly vulnerable to trafficking. Children are trafficked within Bulgaria and to Greece and the United Kingdom for the purposes of forced begging and forced petty theft. Around 15 percent of identified trafficking victims in Bulgaria are children. Bulgarian women and some men are trafficked internally, primarily to resort areas along the Black Sea coast and in border towns with Greece, for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here or a full TIP Report here



CAUTION: The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Bulgaria. Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false. No attempt has been made to verify their authenticity or to validate their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include possible precursors of trafficking such as poverty. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims


International Office for Migration Bulgaria Hotline
293 94 777
Country code: 359-



Children from Bulgaria Victims of Human Trafficking Most Often

The Sofia Echo, Jun 28 2007

[accessed 24 January 2011]

Bulgarian children are most often the victims of trafficking and Bulgaria ranks as one of the most active human trafficking places in the Balkans.  Women and children are taken out of the country and most often forced to work or are used as organ donors, research of Animus association said as quoted by Novinar newspaper.


*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bulgaria

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 13 May 2021]


There were some reports of families and criminal organizations subjecting children to forced work (see section 7.c.). The national antitrafficking commission reported receiving an increased number of labor exploitation complaints. The commission attributed these complaints to the increased number of persons who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis and who exercised less caution in accepting employment opportunities. According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, “children and adults with disabilities are forced into street begging and petty theft.” As of October authorities registered 26 cases of trafficking in persons for the purpose of labor exploitation, although that was a significant decrease from the same period in 2019.


The government continued programs to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, mounted educational campaigns, and intervened to protect, withdraw, rehabilitate, and reintegrate children engaged in the worst forms of child labor.

NGOs continued to report the exploitation of children in certain industries, particularly small family-owned shops, textile production, restaurants, construction businesses, and periodical sales, and by organized crime–notably for prostitution, pickpocketing, and the distribution of narcotics. Children living in vulnerable situations, particularly Romani children, were exposed to harmful and exploitative work in the informal economy, mainly in agriculture, construction, and the service sector.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 23 July 2020]


Labor laws provide basic protections against exploitative working conditions, but they do not extend in practice to gray-market employment. Roma and other ethnic minorities are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation. Although the government has continued to step up efforts to combat trafficking, shelter victims, and punish perpetrators, these measures have not matched the scale of the problem, and punishments remain light in practice.

Committee against Torture considers report of Bulgaria

Committee against Torture, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights OHCHR, 21 Nov 2017

[accessed 22 November 2017]

In the area of trafficking in human beings, Bulgaria had made significant progress. It was one of the countries in Europe with the most comprehensive institutional frameworks to combat trafficking in human beings. It had penalized trafficking in line with the highest international legal standards, and it had gone further to ensure more severe punishments in cases where the victim was a child. The National Commission to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings had made the early identification of victims in mixed migration flows one of its priorities, and it had partnered successfully with United Nations bodies and international humanitarian organizations. A National Referral Mechanism for Support to Trafficked Persons in Bulgaria had been set up in July 2016. Its main objective was to guarantee respect for the human rights of the victims, including unconditional support, security and safety, confidentiality and protection of personal information and a non-discriminatory approach.

Human Trafficking Scheme from Bulgaria Busted in Greece

Sofia News Agency, August 16, 2012

[accessed 17 August 2012]

Police in Greece have cracked a network for human trafficking from Bulgaria, in which Bulgarians were forced to beg.

The undisclosed number of Bulgarians were held in an apartment in the central Greek city of Larissa.

The Bulgarians were among the country's poor, and were lured with promises for work in Greece. After that, they were forcefully held, were made to beg in various European countries, and were severely beaten at each attempt to escape.

Greek police discovered the network, after a 58-year-old male Bulgarian was hospitalized after being abandoned outside the city following such a beating.

Over One Billion Euros Per Year from Human Trafficking for Bulgarian Mafia

Bulgarian News Network, 4/7/2009 - Source (restricted):

[accessed 24 January 2011]

The annual profit from human trafficking and prostitution for the Bulgarian mafia is over one billion euros, a RiskMonitor report revealed on Tuesday. Every year the victims of human trafficking in Bulgaria are around 10,000. The schemes for money laundry of human trafficking profits include luxury boutiques, outlets and car stores. It has also been revealed that such criminals have started to invest in agriculture, where they could, for example, file reports of producing far more than what they actually do, thus laundering the money. According to the report, 70 percent of the prostitutes in Belgium are of Bulgarian origin. There is also a trend that has appeared recently - Bulgarian girls are being trafficked to countries like the USA and South Africa.

Bulgaria Ends 38 Suits on Human Trafficking in 5 Months

Sofia News Agency, December 4, 2007

[accessed 24 January 2011]

Officials have previously announced that the total number of people sentenced for human trafficking for the first nine months of 2007 was 26.

Bulgarian officials say legalizing prostitution could spur human trafficking

Associated Press AP, Sofia, October 9, 2007

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

Former foreign minister Nadezhda Mihailova, whose Institute for Democracy and Stability in Southeast Europe organized the conference last week, estimated that some 10,000 Bulgarian women are trafficked each year - mostly to Germany and the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal.

10 000 Bulgarian Women Per Year Victims of Human Trafficking

Olga Yoncheva,, 05.10.2007

[accessed 24 January 2011]

Around 10 000 Bulgarian women per year become victims of trafficking towards EU countries. For the last two years, 32 organized criminal groups which deal with women trafficking have been cracked down. 16 leaders have been caught.

READING ROOM: Bulgaria's working girls

Libby Gomersall, The Sofia Echo, Aug 13 2007

[accessed 24 January 2011]

The dark side of prostitution is not that it exists at all, but the fact that a pimp controls most girls and that their exploitation is not just confined to roadside prostitution. Bulgaria is one of the largest human traffickers in the world, providing enslaved girls to brothels all over Europe. Currently, Bulgarian laws on prostitution are unclear. Existing legislative provisions date back to before 1944. When communism came to Bulgaria, sleazy practices like this, along with other such crimes against women like domestic violence, were considered to exist solely in the Western world.

Shock human trafficking case

Agence France-Presse AFP, Sofia, April 20 2007

[accessed 24 January 2011]

Ten Bulgarians involved in trafficking women to France to work as prostitutes have been arrested following a joint operation by Bulgarian and French authorities, the national investigation service said Friday.

Between 2002 and 2005, the group transferred at least 105 Bulgarian girls to France and forced them to work as prostitutes, Ivanova said.

Bulgaria to extradite human trafficking suspects to France

Agence France-Presse AFP, Sofia, April 12, 2007

[accessed 24 January 2011]

The five men were allegedly part of an organised crime group involved in trafficking Bulgarian women to France, mainly to the city of Lyon, and forcing them to work as prostitutes. They face between seven and 20 years in prison but will most probably be sent back to serve their sentences in Bulgaria.

80 human trafficking cases submitted to National Security Service in 2006

[Last access date unavailable]]

"Eighty cases of trafficking in human beings from Bulgaria were submitted to the National Security Service in 2006", NSS deputy director Rumen Georgiev said at a press conference entitled "Action against Trafficking in Human Beings", a journalist of FOCUS News Agency reported. Twenty-two cases have already been closed. "The number of human trafficking cases is higher than the drug trafficking cases", Georgiev explained.

Human Trafficking Epidemic In Bulgaria

Make Way Partners, 27 Dec 2006

[accessed 24 January 2011]

Human trafficking and drug smuggling were epidemic in Bulgaria and Romania, Reuters news agency said. Thousands of women, some of them aged only 13, are kidnapped or tempted with offers for well-paid jobs, and sold into prostitution to human-trafficking gangs every year.

Bulgaria, France Crash Human Trafficking Channel

Sofia News Agency, 2006

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

A channel for traffic in people to France has been crushed by the Bulgarian and French police.

Police in Bulgaria's Russe and French Marseille acted in close cooperation in crushing the channel. Six people were questioned in the Bulgarian city and 5 homes were searched. A total of 20 cell phones, many personal belongings as well as bank transfers documents were confiscated during the search.

How the new Fagins are bringing child slavery to Britain

Olga Craig, Bojan Pancevski, and David Harrison, The Telegraph, 04 Jun 2006

[accessed 20 January 2011]

Two years ago, when she was 10, Dochka lost what was left of her innocence when she was sold to a band of child traffickers by her mother and aunt in Bulgaria. Bewildered and terrified, the little girl was transported to Austria, forced to learn the skills of a pickpocket and put to work.

New arrests on charges of human trafficking in Bulgaria

The Sofia Echo, Jun 05 2006

[accessed 24 January 2011]

The actions of Bulgarian police were co-ordinated with Italy's top anti-mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso, who is head of Italy's anti-mafia operations. This co-ordination was a result of Velchev's and Petkov's recent visit to Rome where Grasso asked for their assistance in the fight against people trafficking.

Europe-Wide Human-Trafficking Ring Cracked

Associated Press AP & Reuters, May 29, 2006

[accessed 24 January 2011]

Authorities across Europe say they have arrested 41 Bulgarians in recent days after Italian police uncovered a trafficking network that exploited hundreds of children. The arrests were in northern Italy, Bulgaria, Germany, and Austria. Italian police say another 75 people have been placed under investigation. Charges against the suspects include enslavement, human trafficking, and drug smuggling.

Corruption and Human Trafficking Hinder Bulgaria's EU Entry

The Sofia Echo, May 17 2006

[accessed 24 January 2011]

According to the article, the European Commission report from May 16 meant Bulgaria needed to take urgent action in fighting organised crime if it wanted to join the EU in 2007. The Independent said the report 'painted and alarming picture' of Bulgaria as one of 'Europe's centres of human trafficking'.

Revealed: kept in a dungeon ready to be sold as slaves

David Harrison in Skopje, The Telegraph, 27 Nov 2005

[accessed 24 January 2011]

The women, aged 18 to 24, are from across eastern Europe, lured from Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Bulgaria, with promises of good jobs as waitresses, au pairs and dancers.  Instead, they have been forced into modern-day slavery in western Macedonia, locked in the dirty cellar and only summoned upstairs by their masters to perform sexual services for customers who are usually drunk and often violent.  When they were found, the victims, some of whom had been "broken in" as prostitutes in other countries on the way to Macedonia, barely knew where they were. They had no idea what the future held but knew that it was beyond their control.

Balkans Urged To Curb Trafficking

Imogen Foulkes, BBC News, 31 March, 2005

[accessed 24 January 2011]

Countries in South-East Europe are failing to take effective measures against people trafficking, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says. A UNICEF report says that while countries in the region have strict anti-trafficking laws they do not tackle the root causes of the problem.

Initiative to Help Fight Human Trafficking in Three SEE Countries

Robert Herschbach, Southeast European Times, 05/04/05

[accessed 24 January 2011]

Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro are located in a pivotal zone between poorer countries to the east and the affluent nations of the EU, and function as transit points. Bulgaria has passed key legislation criminalizing trafficking and providing for victim assistance, but corruption has impeded law enforcement efforts.

Atrocious Pimping Suspect Arrested In Sofia

Sofia News Agency, Apr 29, 2005

[accessed 4 September 2011]

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly also be accessible [here]

A man suspected of kidnapping, abusing and forcing women into prostitution has been arrested in Sofia, the police disclosed Friday. He had reportedly kidnapped a number of young women and is suspected of brutally assaulting many of them and locking them in a cage with a dozen of pit bull dogs.

Seduction, Sale & Slavery: Trafficking In Women & Children For Sexual Exploitation In Southern Africa [PDF]

Jonathan Martens, Maciej 'Mac' Pieczkowski, Bernadette van Vuuren-Smyth, International Organization for Migration (IOM), May 2003

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - The major findings may be summarized as follows:

Russian and Bulgarian mafias traffic Russian and other Eastern European women on South African visas fraudulently obtained in Moscow to upscale South African brothels. These Eastern European women are promised jobs as waitresses, dancers, strippers, and hostesses in South Africa, but are not told that they must pay a debt of US$2000 per month for six months or more as sex workers until they arrive in South Africa. If they refuse to cooperate, they and their families back at home are threatened with violence.

Miss Humanity

Velina Nacheva, The Sofia Echo, Jan 15 2004

[accessed 24 January 2011]

Magi spends most of her time in South Africa, but during her visits to Bulgaria she leads many campaigns, and works with girls vulnerable to human trafficking. Magi's focus is educating and talking to girls from orphanages in Blagoevgrad's and Rousse which are border checkpoints where financially vulnerable girls are often trafficked abroad.

In conversations with children from orphanages and schools, Magi explains the dangers that children might encounter when talking to strangers who offer strange work opportunities. In response she is always greeted with much love and affection by the children in Blagoevgrad and said that these children do mean a lot to her. "They ask questions, share their dreams and are natural," she said. - htcp

Face to Face Bulgaria

FACE2FACE 2004-2006

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

The poor economy of a country is the main factor that makes these girls potential victims. They are trying to run away from poverty and to have a better future for them and for their families by accepting shady offers from unknown people and agencies. Once they choose this road, they rarely escape from this trap alive. It is proven that girls from orphanages and small towns and villages are most vulnerable because of uneducation and desire for quick earnings.

Michael Cory Davis, Screenwriter of Svetlana's Journey film, based on true events

American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

Many people are mis-educated about the forced prostitution industry, thinking that these young girls ask for this to happen to them, simply  by their desire for money. In fact, many of the statistics show the initiation and involvement of young girls in this industry, comes from abductions, kidnappings, and out right lying by the sex peddlers. These peddlers use many tactics, usually finding girls in poor areas and promising them opportunities as  secretaries, models, waitresses, and even schooling. Svetlana's story is one of the thousands that pour into the office of Face to Face daily.

Kosovo: Trafficked women and girls have human rights

BRAMA News, May 6, 2004

[accessed 24 January 2011]

Some 406 foreign women were assisted by the IOM in Kosovo between December 2000 and December 2003. According to the IOM, 48 per cent of women who have entered its repatriation program - enabling them to return to their home country - originated from Moldova. Of the remainder, 21 per cent came from Romania, 14 per cent from Ukraine, six per cent from Bulgaria, three per cent from Albania and the remainder from Russia and Serbia proper.

Bulgaria Traffic in Women - Violence against women a western problem?

Susan Phillips, Z Magazine, June 2002

[accessed 24 January 2011]

For young women from small towns and smaller options, Minkova says they are often lured by offers they find hard to resist. "They tell them, 'you look great, you're very nice, I think you'd make a great baby-sitter," says Minkova. Minkova says that although some women go voluntarily, knowing they will be prostitutes, none are prepared for the cruel working conditions. Few women successfully escape from forced prostitution. But those who do, tell a grim story. Both Human Rights Watch and Animus report of repeated rapes and beatings by their captors. They are put through a process of psychological torture designed to make them compliant towards, and dependent on, the pimp. Traffickers confiscate their passports and papers. Often moved and sold, the trafficked women become unaware of even the country in which they are working. Former victims report being forced to work up to 20 hours a day. They receive little, if any, payment and are told they are in debt to their pimps. If they get pregnant, say the Animus volunteers, they are often left by the side of a road. Of all the money that exchanges hands, the sex workers themselves see little of it.

The Department of Labor's 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 24 January 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country's report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

CHILD LABOR LAWS AND ENFORCEMENT - The Constitution prohibits forced labor. The Law on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, which entered into force in January 2004, includes measures for the protection and assistance of child victims of trafficking, and created the National Anti-Trafficking Commission to coordinate and construct policy on trafficking. Bulgarian law penalizes trafficking a minor with 2 to 10 years imprisonment and fines.  Inducement to prostitution, which is often associated with trafficking, is punishable by 10 to 20 years imprisonment, if the victim was a minor.

Concluding Observations Of The Committee On The Rights Of The Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 7 and 8 January 1997

[accessed 24 January 2011]

[9] The Committee is concerned at the lack of an integrated strategy on children as well as of a systematic mechanism to monitor progress in all areas covered by the Convention, and in relation to all groups of children in urban and rural areas, especially those affected by the consequences of the economic transition. The Committee is also concerned about the need to strengthen the State party's capacity to collect and process data to evaluate progress achieved and to assess the impact of policies adopted on children, in particular the most vulnerable groups of children.

The Protection Project - Bulgaria [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[accessed 2009]

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - According to a recent study, among identified female victims of trafficking in Bulgaria, all were trafficked for sexual exploitation. At the time of their identification and referral for assistance, 48 percent were minors. They are mostly lured by false promises of jobs. A significant number of victims come from Bulgaria's southern mountainous region bordering Greece, Macedonia, and Turkey, as well as from other border areas.

Women are lured into the industry through false job advertisements offering jobs as models, dancers, and au pairs. Many of the girls recruited are orphans or come from disadvantaged families, making them more vulnerable to the promises of traffickers offering them work abroad. Teenage girls are often kidnapped and, among the Roma minority, frequently sold to traffickers by their families. - htcp

Human Rights Overview

Human Rights Watch

[accessed 24 January 2011]


2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 20 April 2018

[accessed 17 March 2019]

[accessed 25 June 2019]


There were some reports of families or criminal organizations subjecting children to forced work (see section 7.c.). According to the Agency for Fundamental Rights, "children and adults with disabilities are forced into street begging and petty theft." As of October the National Antitrafficking Commission reported four cases of trafficking in persons for the purpose of forced labor, noting a significant decrease from 2015. NGOs claimed government mechanisms for identifying victims among at-risk groups, such as asylum seekers, were not sufficiently robust.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

CHILDREN - Widespread poverty led many Romani children to turn to begging, prostitution, and petty crime on the streets. There were reports of child smuggling rings paying Romani women for babies that were later sold to couples in Western Europe. Police launched 17 investigations in the Burgas and Peshtera areas in connection with the reports, all of which were ongoing at year's end.

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS - Girls and young women were often approached by persons who gained their trust, frequently other young women and acquaintances, who described glamorous work opportunities abroad. Some were sold into bondage to traffickers by relatives. Unaccompanied young women trying to cross the border into Macedonia, Romania, or Turkey reportedly were at risk of being abducted into trafficking. In larger cities, organized crime groups were often responsible for trafficking, although they used various front companies to pose as employment agencies, escort and intimate services businesses, or tour operators. Small crime groups and freelance operators monopolized trafficking in smaller cities and towns.

According to AAF, the process of transforming victims into prostitutes generally took place before they left the country. Victims typically were taken to a large town, where they were often kept for weeks, isolated, beaten, and subjected to severe physical and psychological torture to make them more submissive before they were transported to their destination points. Once the victims left the country, their identity documents were routinely confiscated, and they found themselves forced to work as prostitutes in cities across Europe. The victims could be required to pay back heavy financial debts to the agency that helped them depart the country, leaving them in indentured servitude. Traffickers punished victims severely for acts of disobedience and threatened the victims' families and family reputations to ensure compliance.

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