November 2017: Romanian Parliament

Sunday 8th of March 2020

I flew to Bucharest in November 2017. When I arrived at the airport, I thought I would just get a taxi to my hotel, but walking into the arrivals hall I saw a lady with a sign that had my name on it. In the car driven by a man she told me she worked for Interpol! 

In my hotel I was shocked to be given a map of the city, which on the other side had pictures of half naked girls, some of whom only looked to be about 18 years old. Next to their photos were telephone numbers you could call to hire the girls to have sex in your hotel room. This was so terrible, to hand out a flyer to hotel guests with info and numbers of prostitutes. The photos looked so sad, the girls had such sad eyes and the most were probably forced into this, or even trafficked.

The next day was the start of the conference in the parliament, which was in a magnificent palace that had been built by the fallen communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. It is the second biggest office building in the world, right after the Pentagon. The conference was called "integrity in the public sphere". It started with a gala dinner and it was really a grand affair with live music, food, and about two hundred guests. I sat at the table of the vice president of Romania and other members of parliament, with Frits Rouvoet from Bright Fame Amsterdam, and Nico from People to People, a Romanian organisation that helps Roma children and women who have been trafficked and forced into prostitution. It was amazing to meet people from the White House, a Harvard University professor from Boston, members of European parliament from different European countries, and Leo, an ambassador for my book Red Alert, who also is a member of the European parliament.

The next day began with the International Prayer Breakfast, which led into the conference where about three hundred people attended. Most of them were politicians from Romania and Europe, and guests from the USA and UK.

I spoke for ten minutes on trafficking and the dangers for Romanian girls. I said we should unite and stop giving the girls away to tourists in hotel rooms, and that more funding was needed for Romanian organisations. I told the story of a Romanian girl who had been trafficked. I told that the Romanian girls I met in Amsterdam were scared to come back to Romania after being rescued, because they where stamped as a prostitute for life. I asked the government to open their eyes to the plight of these girls, to stand up and protect them, to help them come home and to help them to start a new life. I was quite nervous, as it was being filmed by two different television companies and listened to by many important people.

I was so relieved when everyone clapped, some even cried. Many people came to talk and everyone took a Red Alert sponsor book home. Just a few in English, but three hundred in Romanian! Because of this talk I have now been invited to speak in Brussels and in the USA. The sponsor books are now allowed to be put in hotel rooms, so I hope to get enough funding to be able to do this.

It was one of the most exciting things I have ever done, to stand in a palace building to speak for the parliament; it was awesome!

That afternoon I had a lovely dinner with Frits and Leo. After dinner, Frits and I went on an adventure. We took a taxi to a really poor village, to see a girl who had been helped and rescued by Bright Fame. She was struggling to find work, pay the bills and buy food, so we both helped her and her brother, and encouraged her.

Bucharest is such a depressing and sad place; many people hardly have enough money to eat. The average salary is 200 euros, but all the food, clothes and petrol have the same price as in the rest of Europe. Only the rent is cheaper. I felt really miserable walking on the streets of Bucharest, because the people looked so sad, everyone was grime and run down.

Many girls are trafficked from Romania to many different places around Europe. We need to step out and stop ignoring this situation any longer!