Bulgaria, Thessaloniki’s Red Light District, and Team Reflections
Today we drove from Thessaloniki across the Bulgarian border and through several small Bulgarian villages, typical of the places many sex trafficking victims come from. The closed-down schools and shuttered homes indicative of a dying village illustrated why so many Bulgarian women are susceptible to offers of jobs in Greece. They go expecting to work in hotels and restaurants, but instead end up raped and abused until they are “broken” and won’t dare run away as they are forced to work as prostitutes. 40% of the sex trafficking victims the A21 Campaign works with come from Bulgaria so they are focusing on prevention there, helping people be aware of the dangers posed by traffickers.
From the villages we then drove on to the nearest city – Sandanski. It’s a city to which many villagers are drawn hoping for a better life but many find anything but – it is known as the sex trafficking capital of Bulgaria.
After lunch in Sandanski (chicken on swords!), we returned to Thessaloniki where we had a little free time before eating Greek Mexican (yep – Mexican with a Greek twist) for dinner. We then toured Thessaloniki’s red light district, driving through areas of the city (not far from the hotel we’re staying in) where there is brothel after brothel. It was only 10pm, so there wasn’t much activity, but we knew it would be much busier if we returned at 1am or so, even though it’s a Tuesday night. It was extremely disconcerting to see all the new construction and nondescript buildings in the area, including a new 5-star hotel going up right next door to brothels.
After returning to the hotel and debriefing as a team, Andrea, Jason, and Sunshine shared some of their reflections on what we’ve been learning. Hear what they have to say in the video below.