Forced prostitution and forced prostitution rings; how common forced prostitution in Poland is; whether certain areas of Poland are more vulnerable to such activity; location of most or many Polish women sent into prostitution; whether there are certain organized crime groups known for their activity in forced prostitution; if so, the names of these groups and where they chiefly operate; what the state is doing to combat forced prostitution and protect women (1997-April 2000) [POL34278.E]

Several sources indicate that prostitution in Poland is on the rise (National Catholic Reporter 28 Jan. 2000; Federation for Women and Family Planning Apr. 1998). Unofficial estimates put the number of prostitutes in Poland between 10,000 and 20,000, of whom 25 per cent are not Polish (PAP 17 July 1998). The majority work with 1,000 escort agencies existing in the country (ibid.). Some unnamed experts also refer to the emergence of a new "sexual tourism industry" in Poland using minors (AFP 12 Apr. 2000).

Poland is said to be a destination country for traffic in Bulgarian, Russian, Ukrainian and Russian women (PAP 17 July 1998). Estimates provided by the Polish Deputy Interior Minister put the number of Bulgarian prostitutes at about 3,000 (ibid.), including 1,200 in Warsaw alone (Le Monde diplomatique Feb. 1999).

Poland is also a transit country for many women being trafficked from Bulgaria, Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus (PAP 17 July 1998), along with Russia and the Czech Republic (Federation for Women and Family Planning Apr. 1998). In this regard, the proportion of women aged between 15 and 18 has been increasing (ibid.). More than 1,000 prostitutes from Ukraine and Belarus were reported to be in Poland (CATW 1999). According to the Organized Crime Bureau of the National Prosecutor's Office, international criminal rings organize transfers of women to Poland where they stay as long as is needed to pay for their "passage" to western countries (PAP 17 July 1998). According to unofficial data provided by the Polish Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration, several thousands of women are sold as prostitutes in western countries every year (ibid.). The destination countries include the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland (Federation for Women and Family Planning Apr. 1998).

With regard to the traffic in Polish women, a representative of the Polish non-governmental organization La Strada made references to cases of abducted young Polish women who were then taken to Germany or other countries (Le Monde diplomatique Feb. 1999). The representative indicated that 36 such cases had been reported to the NGO between April 1997 and May 1998 (ibid.). She further said that most young Polish women, victims of traffickers, choose to leave Poland after a relative, a friend or an advertisement promises them a "well-paid" job in a Western country, such as waitress, au pair babysitter, or domestic (ibid.). However, they find out once abroad that there are no such jobs and then become prostitutes to survive (ibid.).

In a 28 April 2000 telephone interview, a researcher who wrote a book entitled Trafficking in Migrants Through Poland, stated that these women often have to rely on a trafficker in order to obtain travel documents, go through customs, and survive in a country when they do not speak the language (ibid.). According to the researcher, there are two main types of criminal groups involved in trafficking of women in Poland. The first type comprises small groups made up of Polish citizens who "recruit" women in Poland and then sell them to foreign traffickers (ibid.). The other type includes Russian organized crime groups which are involved in several other criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, arms trafficking, and car thefts (ibid.). She indicated that in 1997, 44 out of 56 individuals convicted of trafficking in women were Polish, while the remaining ones were German, Russian, Ukrainian and Bielorussian (ibid.).

She also referred to a Warsaw-based police squad composed of 4 or 5 agents who deal with trafficking in persons, sects, and sex-related crimes. She further stated that this squad has branches in several other Polish cities (28 Apr. 2000). According to her, forced prostitution is not a priority for the Polish government (ibid.). She also said that prostitutes from other countries tend not to denounce traffickers to the Polish authorities because they would be automatically expelled given their illegal immigration status in Poland (ibid.).

An AFP article published in September 1998 refers to the new Polish legal code, in which the maximum penalty for forcing women into prostitution was increased from five to ten years in prison (1 Sept. 1998). Several sources mention that there is no legislation forbidding prostitution in Poland irrespective of the age of the prostitute and no legal protection for the prostitutes (National Catholic Reporter 28 Jan. 2000; PAP 17 July 1998; SASIAN 14 Apr. 2000). However, the activities of pandering, procurement of prostitutes and assistance in these activities are punishable in Poland (PAP 17 July 1998; SASIAN 14 Apr. 2000). The Polish Criminal Code also penalizes the traffic of women and children, and their provision, enticement or abduction for the purpose of prostitution, whether there is consent or not (ibid.).

In December 1998, a CTK article reported the arrest of five members of a ring accused of forcing into prostitution at least six Polish women, including some minors, and sending them to the Czech Republic and Germany (23 Dec. 1998). The ring leader succeeded in escaping (ibid.). One of their victims aged 14 was raped and sold in the Czech Republic (ibid.). The ring was said to receive about US$1,350 per woman (ibid.).

On 16 July 1998, Ukraine and Poland reached an agreement on fighting prostitution and trafficking in women to the Western countries (RFE/RL 17 July 1998).

In 1997, the Polish Prosecutors' Offices conducted investigations in cases involving 200 women, including 17 Ukrainians sent to Germany or the Benelux countries (PAP 17 July 1998; CATW 1999). Polish judges rendered 20 verdicts in cases of white slave traffic and sentenced the traffickers to a 10-year imprisonment term (PAP 17 July 1998).

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 Response.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 12 April 2000. "Baltic Leaders Gather for Summit." (NEXIS)

_____. 1 September 1998. "Poland Scraps Death Penalty with New Legal Code." (NEXIS)

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW). 1999. Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation. Poland [Accessed 19 Apr. 2000]

Czech News Agency (CTK). 23 December 1998. "Polish Gang Supplying Prostitutes to Czech Rep, Germany Arrested." (NEXIS)

Federation for Women and Family Planning. April 1998. Wanda Nowicka. Poland. An Independent Report Submitted to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [Accessed 19 Apr. 2000]

Ghent University Faculty of Law. 28 April 2000. Telephone interview with a researcher.

Le Monde Diplomatique. February 1999. Yves Géry. "L'Europe face à un nouveau fléau. Trafic de femmes en provenance de l'Est." [Accessed 19 Apr. 2000]

National Catholic Reporter. Robert Blair Kaiser. 28 January 2000. "European Reform Engine Seems to Sputter." (NEXIS)

PAP News Agency [Warsaw, in Polish]. 17 July 1998. "Poland: Polish Ministry Details White Slavery Prostitution Rackets." (FBIS-EEU-98-198 20 July 1998/WNC)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 17 July 1998. "Poland, Ukraine to Fight Sex Slave Industry." [Accessed 19 Apr. 2000]

Sibling Abuse Survivors' Information & Advocacy Network (SASIAN). 14 April 2000. A Summary of the Polish Criminal Code. [Accessed 19 Apr. 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases


Resource Centre Country File on Poland

Unsuccessful attempts to contact two oral sources

Internet sites including:

Amnesty International

Central Europe Review

Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking

Council of Europe Website

Diana: Women's Human Rights Resources

Global Fund for Women

Human Rights Watch

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

International Women's Rights Action Watch


Network of East-West Women

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)

Soros Foundation Network

La Strada, Foundation Against Prostitution Traffic


United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR)

US Department of State Human Rights Practices. Poland. 1997-2000

Warsaw Voice

Women's International Net

Women's Networking Database

Women's Rights Centre


World News Connection (WNC)