Belarus: 500 human trafficking cases

MINSK, Belarus, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Law-enforcement officials in Belarus say about 500 human trafficking crimes have been discovered in the first nine months of 2006.

Officials gathered in the capital, Minsk, for an international conference Thursday on combating illegal immigration and human trafficking said 160 of the cases involved victims being taken abroad against their will, Itar-Tass reported.

The conference, organized by the Belarusian Interior Ministry, the International Organization for Migration, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations Children's Fund, was attended by 13 international organizations, about 12 non-governmental organizations, and law enforcement and government agencies from 40 countries.

The Belarusian representatives said citizens from the country are taken to Poland, Germany, Greece, the United Arab Emirates, Austria, the Czech Republic, Israel and other countries for sexual and labor exploitation.

They said Belarusian workers are often taken to Russia with promises of highly-paid construction work, but their passports are taken away upon arrival and they are forced to work 12- to 14-hour days and threatened with physical violence if they refuse.