Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have sought refuge in Syria since the US invasion of Iraq. Barred from conventional work, women and girls have been forced into the sex trade to support themselves and their families, reports the BBC.
Syrian authorities and aid agencies state that exact numbers of young women in their teens working as prostitutes are unknown, but police have reported that they have found 12 year-olds working as prostitutes in nightclubs. Women picked up by the police are sent into protection agencies where they regularly escape from, or are bailed out by the people who initially coerced them into prostitution.
“We are coming across increasing numbers of women who do not manage to make ends meet and are therefore more vulnerable to exploitive situations such as prostitution,” Larens Jolles of the UN refugee agency told the BBC. “Intimidation and shame means the numbers of trafficking victims and sex industry workers in Syria may never be known by government or aid agencies.”