(AFP ) They arrive in their hundreds every month, their heads full of dreams of new lives in Europe.
And in Italy’s migrant-saturated southern ports, prising these young Nigerian girls away from their traffickers is a formidable challenge.
’” Juju is a potent ingredient in a cocktail of coercion that keeps thousands of Nigerian women and girls in sex slavery in Europe, mostly in Italy, after making the treacherous journey across North Africa and the Mediterranean in search of better lives.
“Some ask me what they will do when they get there,” said Mama Anna, boasting of her reputation as a broker who sends interested girls to Italy to work for her older sister, also a madam. “I want to go to Italy because I want to make money,” she said.“If it is prostitution, I’ll do it.” In the past, girls like Faith would have been tricked into prostitution, promised jobs like hairdressing or supermarket before being forced to work for pimps.“Before, nobody knew - it was a secret thing,” said 30-year-old Anita, who was sex trafficked to Italy in 2011, after being deceived into thinking she was going to work as a hairdresser.Most of the victims come from Edo state in southern Nigeria, they invariably have had only the most basic education and say they can remember little about how they got from Nigeria to the Mediterranean.Smashing dreams Usually the women have a phone number they have been told to call when they arrive. “You have to separate them from false sisters and pretend husbands,” said Pianese. “They arrive here full of hope, confident they are headed for a better future,” the aid worker says.“Unfortunately our duty is to smash their dream.”That involves explaining that the future envisaged for these young women involves long hours perched on the edge of out-the-way roads, servicing 10 to 20 clients a day for less than 20 euros (dollars) a time with no guarantee that some of the punters will not be violent.In reality, many of them are destined for years of sexual slavery.And in Italy's migrant-saturated southern ports, prising these young Nigerian girls away from their traffickers is a formidable challenge.For many, abuse and violence starts en route, in particular in Libya.Yet a degree of gratitude persists alongside fear of the people smugglers who, after all, have delivered on their promise to get them to Europe.50,000 euro debt Even those women savvy enough to suspect that all might not be as it has been presented to them have little idea of the violence that awaits them -- or how hard it will be for them to repay the debts they have incurred.These trappings of wealth are all funded by grateful clients from Italy, he said. Traffickers in Nigeria are exploiting Europe’s migration crisis, moving girls to lawless Libya, before crossing the Mediterranean to Italy, anti-slavery activists say.“Edo women started going to Italy to buy gold and beads in the early 1980s and saw a thriving market in prostitution,” said Kokunre Eghafona, a professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Benin and a consultant researcher for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).