The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) says eighty per cent of Nigerian women who came to Italy by boat in the first half of 2016 were trafficked for prostitution.
The trafficking of Nigerian women from Libya to Italy by boat is reaching “crisis” levels, with traffickers using migrant reception centres as holding pens for women who are then collected and forced into prostitution across Europe, the UN’s IOM warns.
“What we have seen this year is a crisis; it is absolutely unprecedented and is the most significant increase in the number of Nigerian women arriving in Italy for 10 years,” UK Guardian quoted Simona Moscarelli, an anti-trafficking expert at the IOM.
She said majority of the women were being deliberately brought in for sexual exploitation purposes as criminal gangs and trafficking networks engaging in the sexual exploitation of younger Nigerian girls had expanded.
In 2014, about 1,500 Nigerian women arrived by sea. In 2015 this figure had increased to 5,633. “Already we have seen nearly 4,000 women come in the first six months of this year. “We are expecting the numbers to increased again by the end of this year,” Moscarelli warned, adding that the current policy of placing Nigerian women in reception centres along with thousands of other migrants was playing to the traffickers’ advantage, with women regularly going missing.
“Most Nigerian women who arrive in Italy are already victims of trafficking, many have been subjected to serious sexual exploitation on their journey. Many are forced into prostitution in Libya,” said Moscarelli.
The Nigerian women are given a phone number when they leave Nigeria, which they use to inform a contact in Italy that they have arrived.
“The mobsters just come to the camp and pick them up, just as one will pick up groceries from the store. That’s what these women are treated like, objects to trade, buy, exploit and resell and the reception centres are acting as a sort of warehouse where these girls are temporarily stocked.
“They wait until the woman has her residence permit or refugee status document and then they just go and pick her up.”
“They are really treated like slaves and many of them arrive Italy with debts of about £40,000 for their journey from Nigeria, which they are expected to pay back.