“We sat beside her during the match, and we were all analyzing the performance of the [Nigerian] team together,” Blessing, who is 19 and the older of the two siblings, told The Daily Beast. “After the match, she asked us if we would like to go watch the World Cup in Russia and work there after the tournament.”
Russia is open to foreigners with just a single match ticket and a FAN ID, which is available online to confirmed ticket holders. Once you’re in, you can stay legally until July 25, which is 10 days after the end of the competition.
While this is good news for soccer fans visiting the country, it is equally an opportunity for traffickers to do big business.
Blessing and Mfon were told their travel to Russia would be taken care of and that they would get jobs in Moscow as social workers for a nongovernmental organization dealing with traumatized athletes once the World Cup was over. The girls were told it would take about six months to pay back the cost of the journey to Russia, put at $20,000 each, after which they could keep all the money they made.
“We took her to our parents, and she told them the same thing,” Blessing said. “She said she had slots for 20 Nigerian girls and was looking to take girls from all regions of Nigeria with a passion for sports.”
No one suspected the woman was a human trafficker because she showed documents appearing to link her to a number of humanitarian organizations in Russia, and she hailed from the same wider community as the family of Blessing and Mfon, which gave the parents of the girls the impression that she wouldn’t hurt her kindred.