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Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                         


Domestic consumption and investment have fueled strong GDP growth in recent years, but have led to large current account imbalances. Romania's macroeconomic gains have only recently started to spur creation of a middle class and address Romania's widespread poverty. Corruption and red tape continue to handicap its business environment. Inflation rose in 2007-08, driven in part by strong consumer demand and high wage growth, rising energy costs, a nation-wide drought affecting food prices, and a relaxation of fiscal discipline.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: Romania

Romania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Romanian men, women, and children are trafficked to Spain, Italy, Greece, the Czech Republic, and Germany for commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, and forced labor in the agriculture, construction, and service sectors. Men and women from Romania are trafficked to Cyprus, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Poland, Portugal, Belgium, and Turkey, Sweden, Hungary, and Denmark for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Romanian men, women, and children are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor including forced begging and petty theft.   - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009    Check out a later country report here and possibly a full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Romania.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify 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 precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. 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.


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

David Harrison in Skopje, The Telegraph,  27 Nov 2005

[accessed 19 December 2010]

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.

Freedom at Midnight: Human Trafficking in Romania

Paul Cristian Radu, Central Romanian Investigative Journalism CRJI, January 10, 2003

[accessed 5 May 2020]


"Can I be sure you're not giving me back to them?" Diana whispered from the backseat of the car. "I'm scared."  The trembling figure, huddled in a blanket against a cold Bucharest night, had only minutes earlier been just one of the legion of girls for sale in Romania's human-trafficking market.  Driven by fear, her words tumbled out, "They hit me. He stabbed me with a knife. You want to see the wound? I'm hungry. Do you like me? You want sex with me?  Can I have your kids afterwards?  "I'll be a good wife. Do you want to marry me? You know, they starved me. Do you want me to take off my blouse?  I need to eat something! Promise I will never be starved ever again?  I want to smoke, too. And don't forget to buy me chocolate."  Diana - her name has been changed for the purposes of this story - cost us 400 US dollars.  As part of a joint investigation by IWPR and the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism, RCIJ, we had just purchased her from a trafficker. A few days before, she had passed New Years Eve chained and freezing in a dog cage.

Human Trafficking In Romania

Maria Rusu, The Borgen Project, 9 February 2021

[accessed 3 March 2021]

The Global Slavery Index shows that Romania, with 86,000 trafficking victims, has one of the highest rates of modern-day slavery in Eastern Europe and most victims experience sexual exploitation. However, modern-day slavery is common in the following sectors including agriculture, construction, car-washing and housekeeping. Human trafficking in Romania strongly intertwines with migration and encompasses the following activities including prostitution, begging, theft, forced labor and organ cropping. It is especially worrisome that about 50% of the trafficked persons are minors who undergo sexual exploitation, end up in forced labor or have their organs harvested.

Victims of human trafficking in Romania fall into it through numerous means. Sometimes, traffickers will kidnap them or their parents will sell them. At other times, traffickers will recruit them through the “lover boy method” or “a sham marriage.” Altogether, it is a highly vicious circle because there is rarely a way out, and it can sometimes involve multiple generations from mother to daughter. Additionally, gangs may approach low-income families or the victim and charge extremely high-interest rates on the loan they provided for transportation costs and housing after luring their victims.


*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Romania

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

[accessed 22 June 2021]


According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 16.5 percent of human trafficking victims officially identified in 2019 were exploited specifically for labor purposes. In June organized crime investigators detained five individuals on charges of modern slavery. The individuals were accused of having kidnapped and detained several persons with a vulnerable background or mental health problems; the victims were used for agricultural work without pay, starved, and forced to live in inadequate farm annexes. This case remained pending as of December.

Men, women, and children were subjected to labor trafficking in agriculture, construction, domestic service, hotels, and manufacturing. Organized rings, often involving family members, forced persons, including significant numbers of Romani women and children, to engage in begging and petty theft (see section 7.c.).


According to ANPDCA, 389 children were subject to child labor in 2019 and incidents of child labor are widely believed to be much higher than official statistics. Child labor, including begging, selling trinkets on the street, and washing windshields, remain widespread in Romani communities, especially in urban areas. Children as young as five frequently engaged in such activities but were frequently underreported because official statistics are limited to cases documented by police. Children whose parents worked abroad remain vulnerable to neglect and abuse. Of the 389 documented cases of child labor in 2019, authorities prosecuted alleged perpetrators in 20 cases, while an additional 200 cases remained under investigation at the end of 2019. Between January and June, 115 child labor abuse cases were investigated; out of these, 78 were closed, 52 were still in progress, and criminal investigations were started in three cases.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 23 July 2020]


The law provides basic protections against exploitative working conditions, though they are unevenly enforced, particularly in the large informal economy. Economic opportunity varies widely between urban and rural areas, and such disparities limit social mobility for some.

Human trafficking for the purpose of forced labor and prostitution remains a serious problem in Romania. Women and children from the Roma minority are especially vulnerable to forced begging. After a shocking murder case in July 2019—in which police took 19 hours to respond after receiving calls from a kidnapped teenager, who was later found dead—human trafficking resurfaced as an area of public concern, considered improperly addressed by law enforcement authorities.

Organ trafficking: a fast-expanding black market

IHS Jane's, 05 March 2008

[accessed 26 June 2013]


[accessed 5 May 2020]

China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Brazil, the Philippines, Moldova, and Romania are among the world's leading providers of trafficked organs. If China is known for harvesting and selling organs from executed prisoners, the other countries have been dealing essentially with living donors, becoming stakeholders in the fast-growing human trafficking web.

Community leaders in Romania take action against human trafficking

Reuters, 28 August 2007

[accessed 19 December 2010]

Children with at least one parent working abroad are considered at risk by the local authorities. These children fall victim to trafficking more easily due to neglect and weakened family relationships. Young men and women who leave foster care centres are also at risk, as many of them are unprepared to live independently and have not been taught how to make wise decisions.

Teenagers coming from vocational schools are in danger of being trafficked. The majority of these students has a lower level of education and comes from families with little to no economic opportunity. With few life prospects, they commonly seek work abroad, which puts them at risk of being trafficked.

New Center in Romania to Aid Missing and Exploited Children

Alexandria, Virginia -- Distributed by PR Newswire on behalf of International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children

[accessed 19 December 2010]


v  The number of missing children reported missing in Romania has steadily increased from 244 in 2003, to 660 in 2004, to 750 in 2005.

v  There are an estimated 100,000 homeless children throughout Eastern Europe, including 2,000 in Romania. Child trafficking and child prostitution are problems in Romania and represent a large threat throughout Eastern Europe. Homeless or "street" children are frequent victims. An estimated 5 percent of the homeless children in Romania are forced into child prostitution.

v  An estimated 30% of sex workers in Bucharest are under 18 years of age. Romania, and in particular Bucharest, is one of the key travel destinations in Europe for child sex offenders.

v  Romania is a country of origin and transit for women and girls who are internationally trafficked from Moldova, Ukraine, and other parts of the former Soviet Union to Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Romanian Police Break Up Human Trafficking Ring

Bucharest, March 28 2007

[accessed 19 December 2010]

[accessed 13 February 2018]

Romanian authorities have dismantled a human trafficking ring that transported women to Germany and sold them to Turkish citizens for about 5,000 euros ($6,700) each, border police said on Wednesday.

Police said the six-person gang recruited women in bars in villages in west Romania by promising them well-paid jobs abroad. They took them out of the country legally and sold them to Turks in the German towns of Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg.

Human Trafficking Epidemic In Bulgaria

Reuters, 27 Dec 2006

[accessed 29 August 2014]

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.

Expert on Human Trafficking to Visit the United States

Christian Newswire, Nashville, Oct. 25, 2006

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

[accessed 11 September 2011]

The organization Reaching Out operates a safe house in Eastern Europe for teen victims rescued from human trafficking. The safe house has cared for over 150 girls since it was first opened in 1998.  The program at the safe house includes housing the girls for approximately one year, along with counseling, job training, schooling, church attendance, and eventual integration back into society through placement in private homes.

Dark side of migration

Ana Maria Smadeanu and Michael Bird, The Diplomat, 03 Oct 2006

[accessed 19 December 2010]

"I kidnap girls from traffickers. That's my biggest pleasure,” says Iana Matei, who runs Reaching Out, a programme that shelters victims of human traffic.  “The traffickers don't know what's hit them. They're so used to people being afraid of them. I take the girls from under their nose.

In Romania, Matei finds out where a girl is being kept against her will. Then she calls up the girl on her mobile, which the trafficked girls keep for clients, and together they work out a free moment when the girl will not be under the supervision of the trafficker.  Then she plans the swoop.

Romania to legalise prostitution

Reuters, Bucharest, Feb 28, 2007

[accessed 19 December 2010]

Romanian authorities are planning to legalise prostitution as a way to help fight human trafficking and sex slavery, police say.

Smuggler's Prey – [PDF]

[accessed 19 December 2010]

Chapter 1, Smugglers' Prey -- The Natashas: The Horrific Inside Story of Slavery, Rape, and Murder in the Global Sex Trade, [Book by Victor Malarek, Skyhorse, Sep 1, 2011]

[Found listed, 23 February 2019]

Every day, scores of young women throughout the former East Bloc are lured by job offers that lead to a hellish journey of sexual slavery and violence. Despite the barrage of warnings on radio and TV, in newspapers and on billboards, desperate women continue to line up with their naiveté and applications in hand, hoping that, this time, they might just be in luck.

Mine for £1,300: Ileana, the teenage sex slave ready to work in London

David Harrison. The Telegraph,  06 Nov 2005

Click [here] to access the article.  Its URL is not displayed because of its length

[accessed 19 December 2010]

This is no ordinary business deal. I have just agreed to buy Ileana Petrescu, a 19-year-old Romanian woman. Ileana was forced into prostitution two years ago. I am to be her third "owner" and the first to take her out of her home country.

Balkans Urged To Curb Trafficking

Imogen Foulkes, BBC News, Geneva, 31 March 2005

[accessed 19 December 2010]

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.

Rescued from Sex Slavery - 48 Hours goes undercover

Rebecca Leung, CBS Broadcasting, Feb. 23, 2005

[accessed 19 December 2010]

In a matter of hours, Van Sant encounters a husband and wife who claim to have a 17-year-old girl for sale. The girl is introduced as "Nicoleta" and touted by her owners as a highly skilled and profitable sex slave. Van Sant makes it clear he does not want to simply rent Nicoleta for the night, "You understand that if we come to terms, the girl is mine. She is mine. I will own her." The trafficker replies, "Yes, and then you can do whatever you want with her."

Red light on human traffic

Emma Nicholson MEP, Guardian, 1 July 2004

[accessed 19 December 2010]

As this international trade in children grew, so too did the power of the criminal gangs at the centre. Impoverished families were coerced and deceived into giving up their children who were then effectively sold on to Western couples under the guise of international adoption.

Children from neighbouring countries were also torn from their families as Romania became a regional focal point for this inhumane trade.

Joint East West Research on Trafficking in Children for Sexual Purposes in Europe: The Sending Countries [PDF]

Edited by: Muireann O’Briain, Anke van den Borne & Theo Noten, ECPAT Europe Law Enforcement Group, Amsterdam 2004

[accessed 19 December 2010]

[accessed 13 February 2018]

[page 34]  The Romanian report says that depending on the position of the trafficker within the criminal network, the price that each receives for ‘selling’ a girl will vary. On the first sale, the trafficker will receive from €100 to €400 (usually the transaction is made at the border). The trafficker who sells a girl outside the country usually receives up to €1,000. After this, the prices that the traffickers get will increase with each sale. Some traffickers tend to look for children that are already exploited in prostitution in their own country. Then they can just buy the minors from the local pimps and sell them outside the country.

Shopping for Romanian babies

BBC News, 3 March 2000

[accessed 19 December 2010]

She gives me three to chose from - Andrei, Nico, or Liviu - the ones she knows she can easily get permission for from their impoverished parents.  "I can forge their signatures if necessary," she says.  The sum of $20,000 is mentioned and she says she can get the baby delivered, all papers intact (her daughter is a lawyer) to my home in north London.

Romania cracks down on trade of orphan babies to the West

Allan Hall, The Scotsman, 04 October 2004

[accessed 19 December 2010]

[accessed 16 June 2017]

Romanian authorities have confirmed that scores of people, including at least three British couples, are being investigated for allegedly using a legal loophole to buy babies from Romania.  Romania banned adoptions abroad in 2001 following pressure from the European Union.

In an effort to enforce the ban, the government recently authorised tough penalties of up to seven years in jail for families who accept money or other goods in exchange for giving up a child.

Sex and slavery

John Gibb, The Observer, 23 February 2003

[accessed 19 December 2010]

This is what she told me: 'I am from Timisoara in the county of Timis, I am 16 years old. I left Romania on 18 February 2001 and I arrived in Beserica Alba in Yugoslavia the next day. I was involved in import-export between Romania and Yugoslavia with my brother.'

The outreach worker, a tall, angular woman in jeans and an English football jersey smiles, 'You mean you were selling black-market cigarettes?'

'Yes. Some men came while I was there and they forced me to get into their car. They were Albanians and they drove me to a hotel in Montenegro. After a while, an Albanian man arrived and bought me. He took me to the border with Albania. He drove me to a place called Shiak, where he sold me to another Albanian for 3,000 Lek (£150).

Human Trade, Slave Markets, The Buying And Selling Of People

Amnesty International, October 5, 2005

[accessed 13 June 2013]

VIOLENCE AND THREATS – For most of these women and girls, as soon as their journey begins, so does the systematic abuse of their rights, in a strategy that reduces them to dependency on their trafficker, and later their “owner”. The realization grows that the work they have been offered is not what was promised; their documents are taken away from them; they may be beaten; they will—almost certainly if they start to protest—be raped.

Although some women are not aware until they reach their destination that they have been sold, other have seen money change hands, or have been raped by buyers when they “try the merchandise”. Women are often sold several times before reaching their destination. Escape is almost impossible. Without her travel documents, a woman is likely to be arrested for immigration or other offences. But probably more pertinently, trafficked women are usually trapped by threats, coercion, or literally being locked inside.

“We worked from 9am to 11pm. After that he said, ‘You do what you like’, but we were locked. When we asked to go out he said no, that we had to be here. We slept in a room together, me and another girl. All the windows had bars.” – Romanian girl trafficked into Kosovo.

Trafficking of Women

Olivera Simic, University for Peace, Peace and Conflict Monitor, November 16, 2004

[accessed 19 December 2010]

BiH has become one of the main destination countries for women mainly from Moldova, Ukraine and Romania. According to information provided by non-govermental organizations (hereinafter NGOs) which specificaly deal with the problem of trafficking in BiH, there are more than 900 brothels spread throughout the country.

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 19 December 2010]

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

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - There are indications that Romanian teenage boys and girls are involved in the sex trade in the countries of Western Europe.  Romania is a country of origin and transit for internationally trafficked women and girls from Moldova, Ukraine, and other parts of the former Soviet Union to Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Austria, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Italy, France, Germany, Hungary, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, and Cambodia for the purpose of sexual exploitation

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 31 January 2003

[accessed 19 December 2010]

[58] The Committee notes the establishment in 2001 of a national Task Force on Trafficking, the adoption of a national plan of action on trafficking, as well as the increased efforts of the State party to cooperate in regional programs to prevent trafficking and assist victims. Nevertheless, the Committee is concerned that Romania continues to be a country of origin, of transit and, to a lesser extent, of destination for trafficked children.


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 19 December 2010]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – The IOM reported assisting 100 trafficking victims, of whom all were female and 26 were minors. A number of NGOs believed that many girls from orphanages were at particular risk of being trafficked because they lacked the job skills and training necessary to support themselves independently. Most victims were women trafficked for sexual exploitation who had been recruited by persons they knew or by newspaper advertisements. A friend or relative made the initial offer, often telling the victim that she would obtain a job as a baby sitter or waitress. According to IOM, most women were unaware that they would be forced into prostitution. A minority of trafficked women was sold into prostitution by parents or husbands or kidnapped by trafficking rings. There were reports of young Romani women and girls being sold into marriage, a traditional custom in Romani communities.

Trafficking victims endured poor, cramped living conditions. Traffickers ensured the victims' compliance through threats, violence, and the confiscation of travel documents.

Human Rights Reports » 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 28, 2005

[accessed 10 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – As of June, the country had approximately 34,000 children in orphanages, some of which reportedly paid insufficient attention to the dangers of girls being trafficked from their facilities. Persons forced out of orphanages between the ages of 16 and 18 often had no identity documents, very little education, and few, if any, job skills. NGOs believed that many girls from orphanages were unaware of the danger and fell victim to trafficking networks.

Women were frequently recruited by persons they knew or by newspaper advertisements. A friend or relative would make the initial offer, often telling the victim that she would obtain a job as a baby sitter or waitress. According to the IOM, most women were unaware that they would be forced into prostitution. A minority of trafficked women were sold into prostitution by parents or husbands or kidnapped by trafficking rings. Government officials reported that trafficking rings appeared to be operated primarily by citizens; several domestic prostitution rings were active in trafficking

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