The Ukrainian city of Odessa is best known throughout Europe for its sun-drenched beaches and high-end spas. Yet according to a new report, the city's sand-and-surf image hides a much seedier reality: the port also serves as a transit hub for human trafficking between the region and the rest of the world.
The summer months draw thousands of international tourists to Odessa's coast. Yet for many young women from impoverished areas in Ukraine, Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe, the Black Sea harbor becomes a point of no return, according to Russia Today. Sources say that foreign sex traders hire local Ukrainian men to woo these women by offering them jobs abroad in hotels and restaurants, but in most cases, the girls merely end up as sex slaves, often in countries as far away as Turkey, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.
Ukrainian authorities and NGOs say they've made substantial progress in the fight against the sex trade. But there are also concerns that the current recession in the region will leave more women vulnerable to human trafficking rings, and that many victims are still afraid to come forward.
Watch the report here: