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Inside the squalid blue-lit interior waits Aite, an attractive, well-turned-out Nigerian woman in her early twenties. By the end of the decade, there was enormous demand for low-paid workers, who arrived in huge numbers, many employed illegally. With them came low-cost prostitution, usually carried out by women with no residency or work permits either, most of whom were controlled by organized crime gangs who put them to work in the brothels they set up along roads on the outskirts of the town.
Not all women working as prostitutes are from overseas and controlled by organized crime networks. But there is very little information available about Spanish women, or women with Spanish citizenship, working in the sex industry. Apramp, an NGO that works with prostitutes, says around 90 percent of prostitutes in Spain are from abroad, but adds that as the economic crisis has worsened over the last five years, the number of non-foreigners working in the sex industry is growing.
Margarita, a single mother originally from Venezuela, who has been living in Spain for the last decade, began working as a prostitute a year ago. Virginia is Spanish, and advancing in years. She says she used to have her own bar, but the authorities closed it after repeated problems with noise and fighting.
Now she runs a dilapidated place in one of the roughest areas in Roquetas de Mar. She charges the women who work here for using a storage room with a rickety bed covered in filthy blankets. In , the Health Ministry estimates that there were more than 12, women at risk of being sexually exploited in Spain. The regional government funded 19 projects last year to help prostitutes who were being pimped by gangs.
In Roquetas de Mar, a chair outside the door to a farm building indicates that sex is for sale inside. Inside, heavily made-up women in tight clothes spend their days and nights between the four walls of these rundown sheds with their corrugated iron roofs, unpainted cement walls and broken glass. Some of these women left their children behind when they came to Europe; others were raped along the way. She says it took her three years to escape from the man who was pimping her.