Sex-trade traffickers exploit Canadian visa rules

Mon Sep 13, 2010 5:10pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Human trafficking groups have exploited Canada's visa rules to bring victims from Europe and Asia to work in the illegal sex trade, according to a police study released on Monday.

Canada is also used as a transit route for victims, mostly women, who are transported to the United States for work as prostitutes, according to a threat assessment released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The RCMP report says there is also sex-trade trafficking within Canada, and recent convictions have mostly involved victims who were Canadian citizens or had permanent resident status.

The report, which studied Canadian police investigations from 2005 to 2009, acknowledged that authorities are hampered by a lack of intelligence information and poor public awareness about the issue.

Identifying victims as they enter the country is difficult because many do not realize they will be exploited after they arrive, even if they know they are coming to work in the sex trade, the report said.

Traffickers use businesses such as escort services as fronts to hide their activities. Prostitution per se is not illegal in Canada, but it is illegal to live off the earnings of prostitution.

Human trafficking, which involves the transporting of people for the purpose of exploiting them, is illegal and the Canadian government announced last week it was planning to crack down on the crime.

The Internet is sometimes used to lure victims who are then kept under the trafficker's control by fears of reprisal or the victim's own drug addictions, investigators said.   Continued...