Having warmed to her new Tunisian acquaintance, the Polish woman agreed to visit the man for holidays, but then he showed a different side of himself, Poland's PAP news agency reported on Tuesday.
As a result, last week the woman texted a Polish police officer in the southern city of Katowice asking for help.
The woman had the officer’s work telephone number because several years earlier she was a witness in a different case handled by the Katowice force’s anti-human-trafficking unit, the Polish state news agency reported.
It said the Katowice policemen swiftly used all available technology and contacts to locate her.
Poland’s embassy and consulate in Tunisia, the National Police Headquarters in Warsaw, the Interpol international police force, and Tunisian law enforcement services were all involved in the operation, with local police officers eventually freeing the woman.
According to the Polish embassy, she had been captured, held hostage and beaten by the Tunisian man, who was also planning to extort money from her family.
Thanks also to the assistance of the La Strada charity, which works with victims of human trafficking, and the overall supervision of Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, the woman returned safely to Poland on Monday, PAP reported.
It noted that police were urging caution in developing online relationships, "especially if the other side seeks to quickly build intimacy, invites us to visit them alone or asks for money, although the grooming process may also take months or years."
Visiting faraway places that are subject to different laws and customs can be highly dangerous, police have warned, with potential traps ranging from a shortage of money to becoming a victim of crime such as theft, blackmail, forced labour or prostitution, PAP also reported.