Traffickers Promise African Girls Jobs in Europe, Then Force Them into Prostitution

In this Aug. 20, 2016 file picture a woman from Nigeria reacts on the Astral vessel after been rescued by members of Proactiva Open Arms NGO, during a rescue operation at the Mediterranean sea, about 17 miles north of Sabratah, Libya. New and more dangerous smuggling practices and attempts to …
AP/Emilio Morenatti

A new report chronicles the harrowing case of a Nigerian girl who was promised a job in a hair salon in Italy only to be told on arriving that she would have to work as a prostitute instead.

“Yes, I’m 17,” said the girl, whose real name has been withheld. “I wanted to come in Italy because I had been told I would work at a hair salon but as soon as I arrived, I found out that none of it was real. The job was a lie. They forced me to become a prostitute. That was the only way to pay off the debt of the journey, which they had told me before I left that I did not need to pay for.”

Unfortunately, the girl’s case is far from exceptional. The statistics concerning Nigerian girls who migrate to Italy and France testify to a veritable epidemic that is presently spreading unchecked.

Currently, nearly 80 percent of Nigerian females migrating to Italy wind up in forced prostitution, a form of sexual slavery from which the girls and women have no recourse. Roughly half of the prostitutes working in Italy are Nigerians.

Nigerian traffickers have exploited Europe’s migrant crisis to take girls across the Mediterranean into Italy to sell into prostitution. From 2014-2016, more than 12,000 Nigerian girls and young women arrived in Italy—six times as many as in the preceding two years. Of these, some 9,400 wound up as sex workers.

While some of the young women are aware that they are going to wind up in prostitution, many do not, but are lured into making the voyage under false pretenses. The “promised job gimmick” is a tried-and-true recruitment technic employed by traffickers for sexual exploitation.

A large percentage of the young Nigerian women are recruited in Benin City, Nigeria’s “capital of illegal migration,” where local mafias coordinate the trafficking.

Arinze Orakwe, an official of the Nigerian anti-trafficking organization NAPTIP, said last year that fighting against the human traffickers is an uphill battle, in part because of public opinion and propaganda about life in Europe. “Everyone thinks that the streets of Europe are paved with gold,” he said.

Meanwhile, Italy continues to welcome African immigrants by the hundreds and thousands every day. They are usually picked up just off the coast of Libya by waiting “rescue” vessels of the Italian Coast Guard or a number of NGOs that assist migrants, who then take them across the Mediterranean to Italian ports.

What many NGOs and pro-immigration groups surely think they are doing African migrants a favor by assisting them in their passage to Italy, they are also abetting organized crime and condemning thousands of young women to forced prostitution.

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