Saturday, September 12, 2009

Alarming increase of Nigerian girls trafficked to Italy

Italy has recorded an alarming increase of the number of Nigerian girls being trafficked into their country. In 2007 the count of young Nigerian girls trafficked to Italy was 166. In 2008 the number increased to 1,782 according to human rights organisations. An Island called Lampedusa located between Tunisia and Sicily is used as a holding centre for migrants mostly from Africa.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published a report that states human trafficking has become the third largest source of income for criminal organisations globally, followed by drugs and arms. The report also says that 80 percent of people trafficked are women who have been sexually exploited.

The U.N. report also says women are the majority among perpetrators in 30 percent of the countries that provided evidence on the gender of traffickers.

"These women, who we call maman, force us on the streets for days without pause, also when we have our period, also when we are pregnant...and a few days after childbirth we are pushed on the street again, or the maman would steal babies from us,"  Isoke said.

Isoke Aikpitanyi is 30 year-old woman from Nigeria. In 2000 she left home with plans to get a job in London but was 'sold' to a criminal group and sent to Italy where she was forced into prostitution: 

"Here I found true hell, a world of daily violence perpetrated by men, and by other women, and also by our own families who pretend they're not aware, and take their part of money."

Isoke said she raised $40,000 from her work for the people who arranged her trip. How it works is these criminal organisations lend women money to pay for their trip, and then the women are forced to pay the money back through prostitution. "Today, girls are asked for $80,000" she said.

"Girls who are forced into prostitution say that for each woman victim of human trafficking, an Italian woman is safe from rape," according to Isoke. 

A roommate of Isoke's was murdered after she reported to Italian police. Isoke managed to escape in 2003, she informed the police and was later beaten into a coma.

She later found protection from a women's organisation which guided her to build her own organisation to help Nigerian victims and former victims of trafficking. The group is called Girls from Benin City.

The minister for women's promotion and child protection Barry Bibata made the following statements:

"The government of Nigeria is doing a lot to stop human trafficking. In 2003 we enacted a law providing for a very severe sentence for anybody caught trafficking in persons, and we set up an agency for the prohibition of human trafficking (Naptip) that secures shelters and protections to victims. These girls are often very young, they are not mature enough to decide about their future," Bibata said.

According to Bibata the Nigerian government is cooperating with Italy to identify victims, assist them when they come back, and integrate them back within their family.


Related story: Nigeria is the largest African source of trafficked women to Europe and Asia

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