The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said that about 3,600 Nigerian women arrived Italy by boat in the first half of 2016, an amount said to be almost double the figure in the same period last year. IOM said more than 80% of these women were trafficked into prostitution in Italy and across Europe. The UN agency according to UK Guardian said traffickers use migrant reception centers as holding pens for women who are then collected and forced into prostitution.
Simona Moscarelli, an anti-trafficking expert at the IOM said, “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.”
Moscarelli added that majority of the women were being deliberately brought in for sexual exploitation purposes while reiterating that the criminal gangs and trafficking networks engaging in the sexual exploitation of younger Nigerian girls had expanded.
The report further said that although a thriving a sex trafficking industry has been operating between Nigeria and Italy for over three decades, there has been a marked increase in the numbers of unaccompanied Nigerian women arriving in Italy on migrant boats from Libya.
In 2014, about 1,500 Nigerian women arrived by sea. In 2015 this figure had increased to 5,633. Moscarelli warned that the current policy of placing Nigerian women in reception centers along with thousands of other migrants was playing to the traffickers’ advantage, with women regularly going missing.
Moscarelli said most Nigerian women who arrived in Italy are already victims of trafficking, many have been subjected to serious sexual exploitation in Libya. She described their condition as worse, adding; “They are really treated like slaves.”
“They arrive Italy with debts of about £40,000 for their journey from Nigeria, which they are expected to pay back.
“Nigerian trafficking gangs use a toxic mix of false promises of legitimate employment and traditional “juju” ceremonies to recruit and gain psychological control over their victims.” she said.