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Poland: The trafficking in women from Poland to Germany and other European countries; protection available from police, government agencies and NGOs

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 12 June 2003
Citation / Document Symbol POL41647.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Poland: The trafficking in women from Poland to Germany and other European countries; protection available from police, government agencies and NGOs, 12 June 2003, POL41647.E, available at: [accessed 24 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The United States Department of State's (DOS) Trafficking in Persons Report 2002 (TIPR) describes Poland as a "country of origin, transit and destination for trafficking in persons, primarily women and girls..." (5 June 2002, Sec. IIIb). Polish women are trafficked to Western Europe, mainly Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland" (TIPR 5 June 2002, Sec. IIIb). In 2002, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted its concern for what it observed to be a "rising incidence of trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation" in Poland (HRI 2002). The European Union also noted that the issue was a point of concern in its 2002 accession report for Poland, although it noted that the government's fight against trafficking had "intensified" (EU 9 Oct. 2002, 29, 151).

Trafficking victims are recruited "most often from medium sized towns in impoverished regions;" they are unemployed, poor, have little education and "[o]ften" come from dysfunctional or abusive families (La Strada-Poland 3 Mar. 2003b). Eyewitness accounts claim that there exists so-called "prostitution concentration camps" in Poland "where women from Eastern Europe, the Baltic countries and Russia have been kept imprisoned behind barbed wire, raped, starved and even branded by the mafia" until they escape or are resold at auction (NIKK Magasin 2002a, 8). Additionally, the European Parliament noted in 2000 that there was an increase in the phenomenon of "highway prostitution," which saw women from foreign countries enter Poland on tourist visas to serve long-distance lorry drivers near the border checkpoints on the German and Czech frontiers (EU Mar. 2000, 71).

The traffickers include small gangs using limited family networks along the Polish-German border, large-scale organized crime networks that control the trafficking chain from recruitment through to employment of women as prostitutes and networks of groups which buy ("‘retailers'") and sell ("‘wholesalers'") from one another along the trafficking chain (La Strada-Poland 3 Mar. 2003b). The Polish section of the NGO La Strada, which is particularly focused on trafficking (ibid. 3 Mar. 2003a), estimates that 90 per cent of the prostitution along Polish highways is controlled by foreign organized crime groups (ibid. 3 Mar. 2003b). Polish organized crime groups tend to limit themselves to the "internal management of prostitution rings, rarely recruiting girls [from] abroad but instead buying from foreign dealers" (ibid.).

Law enforcement officials are also reportedly involved in the human trafficking network in Poland (ASI 2002, 212). In one case, authorities charged a Polish border official under Article 204(4) of the Polish penal code (enticement into prostitution from abroad) in a case involving a Ukrainian woman (ibid.). According to the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), "[b]order guards ... participated in the abduction of two Ukrainian women, who were taken off a bus along the Polish-Ukraine border and turned over to traffickers ..." (4 Feb. 2002). The report noted that, in addition, "[t]he women were taken to a hotel near Warsaw where they were sold at an auction, which was held under the protection of the local police station" (ibid.).

For earlier information concerning forced prostitution and human trafficking in Poland, please consult POL34278.E of 1 May 2000. For an explanation of the trafficking system in Poland, please consult the attached report entitled "Trafficking in Women" published on La Strada-Poland's website and Web-dated 3 March 2003.

Information pertaining to the protection of trafficked Polish women in Germany is available in DEU38477.E of 29 January 2002. Polish women, along with Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Russian women, are among the largest groups of women trafficked to Germany (IOM 2001, 19; NIKK Magasin 2002b, 15).


The DOS trafficking report categorizes Poland as a Tier 1 country, meaning it "fully complies with [the] minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, including making serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking with respect to law enforcement, protection of victims, and prevention of trafficking" (TIPR 5 June 2002, Sec. IIIb). Human trafficking is punishable under the 1997 Polish Penal Code, where Articles 203, 204 and 253 of the Code state the following:

Article 203 (forced prostitution)

Who, by means of violence, unlawful threat, deceit or taking advantage of another's dependence or difficult situation forces somebody into prostitution is liable to penalty of 1 to 10 years imprisonment (WRC 2000; see also IHF 14-15 Apr. 2000, Sec. 1).

Article 204 (pimping)

§ 1. Who, with the purpose of obtaining a material benefit, incites a person to prostitution or facilitates prostitution of a person is subject to a sentence of imprisonment for a period of up to 3 years.

§ 2. The sentence specified in §1 is applicable to the perpetrator who is profiting by another person's prostitution.

§ 3. If the person referred to in § 1 or 2 is a minor, the perpetrator is subject to a sentence of imprisonment for a period of 1 to 10 years.

§ 4. The sentence specified in § 3 is applicable to the perpetrator who entices or abducts a person into prostitution abroad (Poland. 6 June 1997; see also IHF 14-15 Apr. 2000, Sec. 1).

Article 253 (Trafficking)

§ 1. Who traffics in persons, even with their consent, is subject to a sentence of imprisonment for a period not shorter than 3 years (Poland 6 June 1997).

A 2000 International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights report noted that the following penal code articles are also relevant in human trafficking and forcible prostitution cases:

Article 153 "provoking abortion,"

Article 156 "heavy damage of health,"

Article 157 "lighter damage,"

Article 190 "punishable threat,"

Article 191 "threat to force certain behaviour,"

Article 197 "rape,"

Article 199 "sexual harassment in power relations"

Article 207 "violence against family members and close persons,"

Article 217 "physical integrity abuse" (14-15 Apr. 2000, Sec. 1).

According to Anti-Slavery International (ASI), observers criticize Article 253 as being "too general (and therefore unconstitutional) to constitute a penal offence" because trafficking in persons is not defined precisely enough to determine what behaviour is illegal (2002, 212). Often, those arrested for trafficking for the purposes of prostitution or for sexual activity, are charged under Articles 204 (pimping) and 199, which concerns the "abuse of a person's vulnerability to lead them into sexual relations" (ibid., 212, 211).

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that Polish police have made "great efforts ... working closely with their German counterparts" in stemming illegal migration (n.d.). However, in addition to criticisms of a lack of operational capacity, ASI judged Polish police as having investigative delays and an inadequate adherence to police guidelines, which affect their prosecutorial efficiency against traffickers (2002, 213). The Warsaw Voice noted that the police rarely investigate "cases of encouraging prostitution, profiting from the prostitution of another person or facilitating prostitution in order to make profits" (14 Jan. 2001). For example, the newspaper reported that according to a press spokesperson for the District Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw, police investigated only two past cases of profiting from prostitution (The Warsaw Voice 14 Jan. 2001). In cases where an investigation is launched, complainants of forced prostitution often withdraw their complaint before trial or accuse police officers of forcing their testimony (ibid.), even though victim protection services are available for those willing to aid law enforcement in their investigations (UNODC n.d).

Between 1995 and 2000, 191 completed investigations led to 39 suspended cases and 152 being brought before the court (ASI 2002, 212). Eighty trials between 1995 and 1999 resulted in 151 convictions; however, all but one resulted in a sentence of less than five years imprisonment (ibid., 212-213). In 2001, Polish authorities indicted 71 individuals for human trafficking and introduced 35 cases in courts, a decrease from 119 charges and 38 cases in 2000 (EU 9 Oct. 2002, 29).

A number of NGOs work with victims of trafficking, including the Women's Rights Center, the Information Center for Women's Activities and the ITAKA Foundation, all of which are located in Warsaw (La Strada-Poland 3 Mar. 2003c). The ITAKA provides a database to publicize missing and kidnapped people (ITAKA n.d.). The NGO receiving particular attention in the sources consulted is the Warsaw office of the La Strada Program: Prevention of Traffic in Women in Central and Eastern Europe (UNODC n.d.; WRC 2000; IHF 19 June 2000, 48). Established in 1995, La Strada's Warsaw office is part of a pilot project under the supervision of Stichting tegen Vrouwenhandel (Dutch Foundation against Traffic in Women, STV) (La Strada-Poland 3 Mar. 2003a). The NGO also has offices in Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, Moldova, the Netherlands and Ukraine (La Strada n.d.).

La Strada-Poland provides a range of social, legal, medical and psychological services to victims (UNODC n.d.). In addition, it offers an assistance hotline in Polish and Russian for victims, family members and those who are considering working abroad (IHF 19 June 2000, 48). Anti-Slavery International refers to a case against traffickers in which La Strada provided the victim protection and safe accommodation during and for three months after the case was prosecuted (2002, 215). In addition, La Strada-Poland offers legal assistance as "‘social representatives'" to victims during police proceedings and court hearings (IHF 19 June 2000, 48). Further information concerning La Strada's mandate, activities and the "Women of Trust" network of volunteers, among other subjects, is available online at La Strada-Poland's Website: .

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Anti-Slavery International (ASI). 2002. Elaine Pearson. "Poland." In Human Traffic, Human Rights: Redefining Victim Protection. [Accessed 9 June 2003]

European Union (EU). 9 October 2002. Commission of the European Communities. 2002 Regular Report on Poland's Progress Towards Accession. (Sec (2002) 1408) [Accessed 4 June 2003]

_____. March 2000. European Parliament. Carmen Galina. Trafficking in Women. Edited by Andrea Subhan. Civil Liberties Series, LIBE 109 EN, [Accessed 10 June 2003]

Human Rights Internet. 2002. "Poland: Reports to Treaty Bodies." In For the Record 2002: The UN Human Rights System. Vol. 5. [Accessed 4 June 2003]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 4 February 2002. "Anti-Trafficking Efforts Crippled by Corruption and Lack of Proper Official Response to the Victim's Needs." (Press Release/Stop-Traffic List Service 6 Feb. 2002) [Accessed 10 June 2003]

_____. 19 June 2000. "A Form of Slavery: Trafficking in Women in OSCE Member States: Report to the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Trafficking in Human Beings." Vienna. Compiled and edited by Nicole Watson. [Accessed 9 June 2003]

_____. 14-15 April 2000. "A Perspective on the Women's Status in Poland" Paper presented at the "Obstacles to the Advancement of Women's Human Rights - A Regional Approach" conference, Sarajevo, 14-15 April 2000. [Accessed 9 June 2003]

International Organization for Migration (IOM). 2001. Victims of Trafficking in the Balkans: A Study of Trafficking in Women and Children for Sexual Exploitation to, through and from the Balkan Region. [Accessed 4 June 2003]

ITAKA Foundation for the Assistance to Those Affected by the Problem of Missing Persons. n.d. "About Foundation." [Accessed 4 June 2003]

La Strada [Prague]. n.d. ‘La Strada." [Accessed 9 June 2003]

La Strada-Poland [Warsaw]. 3 March 2003a. "La Strada Foundation." [Accessed 4 June 2003]

_____. 3 March 2003b. "Trafficking in Women."

_____. 3 March 2003c. "Sister Organizations."

NIKK Magasin [Oslo]. 2002a. No. 1. Ulrikke Moustgaard. "Bodies Across Borders." (Nordic Institute for Women's Studies and Gender Research [NIKK]) [Accessed 9 June 2003]

_____. 2002b. No. 1. Audra Sipaviciene. "‘You Will Be Sold Like a Doll." (Nordic Institute for Women's Studies and Gender Research [NIKK]) [Accessed 9 June 2003]

Poland. 6 June 1997. Polish Penal Code. (La Strada) [Accessed 4 June 2003]

Trafficking in Persons Report 2002 (TIPR). 5 June 2002. "Poland (Tier 1)." United States, Department of State. Washington, D.C. [Accessed 4 June 2003]

United Nations. n.d. Office on Drugs and Crime. "The Case of Poland." [Accessed 4 June 2003]

The Warsaw Voice. 14 January 2001. No. 2 (638). Piotr Wickowski. "Poland's Secret Little Problem." [Accessed 9 June 2003]

Women's Rights Center (WRC) [Warsaw]. 2000. Urszula Nowakowska. "Violence Against Women." In Polish Women in the 90's: The Report by Women's Rights Center. Warsaw. [Accessed 4 June 2003]


La Strada [Warsaw]. 3 March 2003b. "Trafficking in Women." pp. 1-9 [Accessed 4 June 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

Unsuccessful attempt to contact La Strada-Poland in Warsaw.

Internet sites, including:

Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative

Coalition Against the Traffic in Women

Cornell Law Library

European Country of Origin Information Network

European Women's Lobby

Find Law

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

Internet Law Library

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

OśKa (Information Center for Women's Activities)

World News Connection

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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