Added: Isael Nesler - Date: 26.02.2022 15:50 - Views: 42203 - Clicks: 2242
Athens, Greece — Mahmoud looks out over the chaotic mess of rooftops and aerials and towards the neglected park he now calls home. Everything suggests he is a typical year-old, apart perhaps from the jagged scar on his brow. The Afghan asylum seeker clasps his hands tightly in front of him as he speaks. His only shelter is a cheap tent that he shares with an Iranian asylum seeker.
Perched on the concrete roof of a small maintenance building hidden among the trees of Pedion Areos Park, it offers little protection from the cold. A bag of oranges provides breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mahmoud says the money he makes selling sex only covers the cost of his daily food. He cannot afford to save anything.
Pedion Areos Park has become a hub of illegal male prostitution, sometimes involving refugees as young as Greece has strict laws regulating prostitution. Sex workers must register, be aged over 18, legal residents in Greece and work in a d brothel. Despite this, illegal street prostitutes, who are often migrants and refugees, are estimated to out d prostitutes by 20 to one.
d sex workers have fortnightly sexual health checks and access to free treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Und street sex workers, like Mahmoud, do not. The park, although grand and sprawling, has, like its inhabitants, been largely ignored. The large statue of King Constantine I that stands at its entrance has been covered with graffiti. Used condoms and tissues litter the ground. Those familiar with the park say that the majority of the sex workers there are Albanian, Bulgarian and Romanian. Neno, a Bulgarian Roma, arrived in Athens eight years ago and has been a sex worker in the park ever since.
He lives in a small town to the southeast of Athens which is popular with tourists, and takes the bus into the capital each weekday. The bus stops directly outside the park. For Neno, being a sex worker is a job like any other. They spend their mornings waiting and warming themselves by fires started in steel cans, into which they put anything that will burn, often producing a choking smoke.
Business begins in the late afternoon as the winter sun starts to set and the few dog-walkers and runners leave the park. Their busiest time is from dusk until midnight, when the majority of those in the park are sex workers or their clients. As the light in the park fades, middle-aged men walk slowly past benches on which young men and boys sit, as though perusing shop windows. By now, a different demographic has arrived: unaccompanied minors, refugees who have been orphaned, are travelling alone or have been separated from their family during the journey, and see the park as a place to make money.
The clients are always Greek, explains Mahmoud. Most are in their 60s, but some can be as young as 30; others as old as Some of the sex workers are clearly on familiar terms with the clients, laughing and chatting openly with the ones they recognise. Others, often the younger ones, sit awkwardly, saying little. Once a price has been agreed, they move somewhere more private — but that usually just means going behind a bush a few metres away.
Costas is 46 and has good job at a logistics company. Most evenings after work, he goes home to his apartment in a suburb of Athens, where he lives alone. But three or four evenings a month he changes his clothes and drives to the park to look for sex. He is familiar with two or three of the sex workers at the park whom he knows by name and sees regularly. Five euros is the going rate, he says, regardless of nationality. Costas insists that he never has sex with refugees or anyone under the age of Yiorgos says he is 52 but he looks much older.
He lives an hour away but comes to visit a friend who lives near the park three times a week. They go for coffee and, on his way home, Yiorgos walks through the park, looking for sex workers. A sex worker in their 20s could have sex five times a night, earning up to 50 euros, he explains. Neither do I fight …. If I fight or steal, yes, the police will come. What could they tell me? All they can do is ask me why I am sitting here. Is it wrong? Prices vary, explains Tassos Smetopoulos, a volunteer who organises a weekly food donation in the park.
Some friends of mine will be there too. You can stay the night. Shortly after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, Mahmoud, who was then five, left his native Herat with his family. After five years of schooling, Mahmoud started working to support his family.
I tell them Athens is a good city, with nice people, but really it's like someone has injected this city with filth. At 15, he left Iran ahead of his family to search for work opportunities in Turkey. They always say I have to wait. Using a mobile phone borrowed from a friend, Mahmoud speaks to his family in Iran at least twice a week.
He gives them updates on his journey but never tells them the truth about his life in Athens. But Hansen believes that not enough is being done to investigate whether anyone is behind it. You can just go to the park and solicit a year-old … It is going on in front of our eyes and no one is really doing anything. The office of the Prosecutor for Juveniles, which is responsible for unaccompanied minors in Greece, told Al Jazeera that it had begun an investigation in December into the issue but that the investigation was ongoing.
They declined to answer any further questions about it. Mahmoud says that uniformed police officers sometimes patrol the park, but that evading them has been easy so far. Stuck for months waiting for refugee applications to be processed, some Syrians pay to be smuggled back to Turkey.
By Will Horner. Syrian refugees regret going to Greece. Going undercover as a sex worker. A photojournalist describes how she posed as a prostitute to follow the trade in human flesh. More from Features. Palestinian kids run gauntlet of settlers, army on way to school. Algerian whistleblower imprisoned after Spain deportation.
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