Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Amsterdam: Trafficking Forces Clampdown in Red-Light Area

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS -- The famed tolerance of the Dutch has reached its limits in Amsterdam after city authorities announced the closure of almost one third of the windows from which prostitutes ply their trade in the city's famous red-light district.

The move is a setback to the Amsterdam's thriving sex trade area which attracts thousands of tourists - as well as customers - and which has been well-established since the 17th century.

The authorities' action reflects the trend in the Benelux countries of shifting towards a flexible policy of tolerating some, carefully monitored, prostitution while cracking down on the rest. City authorities and police are increasingly concerned about the criminal underbelly of the sex business, in particular money laundering and human trafficking.

According to some estimates, around 3,500 women are trafficked to the Netherlands each year from eastern Europe and Asia to work in secret brothels or illegal escort agencies, often under appalling conditions.

Though the Dutch government legalised prostitution in 2000 to make it easier to tax and regulate, the authorities in Amsterdam have decided to use powers under a more recent law. This permits them to revoke licences from brothels when they suspect them of other illegal financial activity.

About 100 of the 350 prostitution windows in the Dutch capital's red-light district will be forced to close by the end of the year, though brothel owners can agree to withdraw their permits.

THE STORY CONTINUES AT News.Independent.co.uk

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