They arrive by the hundreds every month, the European dream full head, while many are promised to years of sexual slavery. But in Italian ports, snatching these young Nigerians from their traffickers is a real challenge.
At each landing of migrants rescued at sea, it is the same ritual: a summary medical examination, a first identity interview, fluff for children, and … an expert from the International Organization for Migration ) Particularly attentive to young women.
Since the late 1980s, Italy saw many Nigerians attracted by the promise of a job in Europe but trapped by a colossal debt to reimburse their smugglers.
In recent years, trafficking has exploded. According to IOM data, 433 Nigerians arrived on the Italian coast in 2013, 1,454 in 2014, 5,653 in 2015, 7,768 as of 30 September of this year. Over the last two years, hundreds of minors, sometimes aged between 12 and 14 years.
“Between 70 and 80 per cent of them are at risk of being forced into prostitution” in Italy, France, Spain, Austria etc., where demand is increasing, explains Luca Pianese, an IOM expert.
In the ports, he and his colleagues, including two women of Nigerian origin, are attentive to several signs among the new arrivals: the victims of the networks usually come from Edo State, in southern Nigeria, Have a very low level of education, say they have difficulty remembering their journey …
– ‘Breaking this dream’ –
They have a phone number to contact upon arrival, but often also a member of the network accompanies them. “So we have to separate them from the false sisters, the false husbands,” he explains.
Then comes the most delicate step: “They arrive here full of hope, confident in a better future. Our duty, unfortunately, is to break this dream” by explaining the small country roads on the outskirts of cities, 10 to 20 daily clients sometimes violent, the passes to less than 20 euros …
In addition, there is more positive information: Italian legislation guarantees a residence permit and support for victims of prostitution networks, even if they have not yet been exploited.
But according to the IOM, barely 300 young women have accepted aid from their arrival between last year and the first eight months of this year.
It is not surprising for Sister Monica Chikwe, a Nigerian nun to coordinate in Italy an extensive network of homes run by religious communities for the victims of these networks.
In Nigeria, “no one is telling the truth” and when they are told about Europe, “girls only see glitter,” she explains.
For many, abuse and violence have already begun on the way, especially in Libya, but recognition is still mingled with fear of the smugglers who, despite everything, have kept their promise to lead them to Europe.
– 20 to 50,000 euros to be repaid –
And those who have doubts have no idea of the violence that awaits them and the enormity of the debt – usually between 20,000 and 50,000 euros – that they have committed to repay.
“These are sums much higher than what the other migrants paid,” Maurizio Scalia, deputy prosecutor in Palermo, Sicily, told AFP, who has prosecuted individual denunciations and is now seeking to ” Level of the survey to reconstitute the whole system “.
Moreover, all victims are linked by sometimes cruel voodoo rituals made before the departure and fear a bad luck or retaliation against their family if they do not repay their debt.
So most of them remain silent to follow the flood to a reception center where the traffickers come to pick them up. But IOM will have previously dragged them phone numbers to call at any time.
At the beginning of the week, the police were able to release a young Nigerian disembarked on October 24 and who had called for help after being detained by three compatriots demanding that she prostitute to pay 30,000 euros.
In total, the toll-free number set up by the Italian authorities received 150 calls for young Nigerian women between 2015 and June 2016.
Faced with the emergency, the Italian government has allocated 15 million euros to create foster homes. They are already full.
Source: AFRICAN EYE