—When I saw you come in, so young and smiling, I thought: who among them would be a potential victim of trafficking? The answer is: all.
Marcela, a fictitious name she chose to safeguard her identity because she is threatened, arrived in Spain 16 years ago. Someone promised her a job worthy of her, but as soon as she set foot in Europe she realized that she was beginning her ordeal as a victim of sex trafficking. First her pimp made her go through all the clubs in Portugal, then they stopped in Seville. “I arrived without knowing a single word of Spanish, and I immediately realized that I was in the worst place to learn it,” he jokes to bring a smile to the audience in front of him, who has been left speechless by his testimony. In the press room of the Ciudad del Fútbol, in Las Rozas (Madrid) there are, on one side and with a microphone in hand, four women victims of trafficking. On the other, the women’s soccer team, which interrupted training for the Europeans to learn the story of these survivors.
“It is clear that there are many injustices in the world that we are not aware of. It is impressive that they are able to tell their stories, not everyone has the same strength”, says Aitana Bonmatí, midfielder for the Spanish national team and Barcelona player. For an hour, the 23 soccer players remained glued to their chairs, unable to interrupt the story of Marcela, Alina, Jeanette and Carmen, survivors who managed to escape from their pimps thanks to the help of the Association for the Prevention, Reintegration and Care of the Prostituted Woman (APRAMP).
“The first thing people think when they see us on the street is why don’t they run away? Nobody knows that the pimps always have us under control, they drug us, take away our documentation and threaten the lives of our relatives if we don’t do what they say”, explains Alina (35 years old), who came to Spain from a country in Eastern Europe. . She cannot give her real name, nor reveal her nationality, because ever since she managed to escape the surveillance of her exploiter and sneak into the Montera street police station, a few meters from where she was forced into prostitution, she lives under a protection regime.
11 years have passed since this act of bravery. Now she is part of the “mobile units” of the APRAMP association, the rescue groups that are in charge of finding trafficked women and helping them get out of slavery. “Alina is a true leader. She is known wherever she goes by her compatriots and she has helped us rescue many women in all the years she has been with us”, acknowledges Rocío Mora, lawyer and president of the association.
The work of the mobile units is one of the topics that the players of the national team are most passionate about, who ask about the modus operandi during rescue operations. “Finding the places where women are exploited is the easiest. Streets, polygons, clubs with well visible neon lights. It is more complicated to know where the flats are”, explains Alina. “Then you have to be patient and manage to gain the trust of women.” For security reasons and in order not to compromise the work of APRAMP, no further details can be provided on these operations that are carried out continuously in Madrid, Murcia, Almería or Asturias.
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“Raise your hand who has seen beautiful womanMarcela asks. Only four hands in the public. “EITHER sky red”, he insists. Almost all the soccer players answer affirmatively. “It all seems very glamorous, with a lot of money, parties, gifts. But none of us has earned money working for a whorehouse, it’s the mafias that get rich. The only thing we have achieved is leaving there shattered and without self-esteem”, highlights the South American.
“For many years I felt like a criminal, I didn’t want to talk to the police for fear of going to jail,” recalls Carmen (42 years old). While she tells her life – a story that she says is very long and painful, and that a few years ago she was not able to tell without bursting into tears – no one moves in the room. She left her country in Latin America in 2010 attracted by a job offer that would allow her to support her children. She arrived in Spain a year later. In the 12 months between the start of her slavery and her release, she first passed through Turkey, where she was locked up for three months in a hotel with other women, and then walked to Greece, where she was forced into prostitution in a flat.
“Did you manage to meet your children?” asks the Barcelona striker Mariona Caldentey at the end of the talk. She answers that she does, that she lives in Madrid with the little ones, and she often talks with the older ones. “What can we do to help you?” insists Irene Paredes, captain of La Roja. “Talk about our stories,” says Jeanette. “And win the European Championship.”
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