By definition, women do not become brothel slaves by choice. Some are kidnapped, some are lured into leaving their homes by false job offers or invitations, some are political or economic refugees trapped into a position of dependency (through money, drugs, physical or psychological pressure). Thus they fall into the hands of slave dealers, or vice rings, are usually shipped to another country, and are forced into prostitution, working on the streets, in nightclubs, bars, striptease joints, or brothels. Sometimes they are denied food or beaten until they comply. They are kept in submission by rape, violence, their illegal status, their inability to speak the language, and minimal income. Often they are traded and rotated, for a fee, among different dealers and countries.
At least half a million women are believed to have been brought to the EU states to work against their will as prostitutes. Until the 1990s, most victims of European brothel slavery were girls and women from Asian and South American countries. Since the 1990s, a large proportion come from countries in central and eastern Europe, particularly the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
One Polish woman interviewed in 1993 in the Netherlands reported daily personal earnings of 25 guilders of the 3,000 guilders she actually made from servicing more than 20 customers each night. In the 1980s it was reported that Swedish men could pay 680 Pounds for three months of "service in bed" by women imported from Asia. The women arrive on three-month residence permits, which are renewable if their work proves satisfactory. A Swedish womens' protest group has called the trade "pure slavery".