The spread of human traffic in Europe

In recent years, Nigerian organisations of human traffic have begun to be exported to Europe. This illegal traffic, which consists in selling under-age women, uses manipulation and conditioning to enroll them. Even if some refuges have been created, they do not yet have enough room to welcome all the victims, and not enough money to protect them in the long run. 

Historical context

Nigeria, or the federal Republic of Nigeria, is a West African country located in the gulf of Guinea. With more than 219 million inhabitants in 2021, Nigeria is the most populated country of Africa and the seventh of the world. The country is the first economic power of the African continent. However, this so called « Giant of Africa » draws its power from a high corruption. 

Similar stories

Young women who want to leave Nigeria to escape poverty and the lack of education are spotted by smugglers. They promise them to send them in European countries as Germany, or Italy. In exchange, once there, young women have to work as hairdressers in order to pay back to the men the price of the flight. After some months, they should be completely free and comfortable to live the way they aspire. Nevertheless, the agreement is never respected. In order to mentally condition the women, the smugglers practice a black magic ceremony called « Juju ». This ritual is very impressive for them. They have to repeat their promise to pay back their depth and to obey to the men waiting for them. 

The « Juju » ceremony

« Juju » is a spiritual wisdom used to bless someone. Some smugglers use it as a conditioner. After that, the young women obey slavishly to their « Madam » in Europe.« Madam » is the woman responsible of a group of women and who receives their pay. She is the mediator between them and the smugglers. During the ceremony, the young women are taken to a dark room by the juju priest. According to Victory’s testimony, a victim of the traffic, this ceremony is awful. The blood, the white powder and the cray mix up everywhere. For instance, she had to repeat after him « if I do not pay I will die ».

The arrival of boats

According to the Italian prosecutor Lina Trovato, the arrival of boats of migrants is a crucial moment. This is the only way to identify the young women (majority of minors) destined to be placed on the prostitution market. This is a hard moment because the agents destroy all their dreams and hopes. They tell the truth : they will not be employed as hairdressers but as prostitutes. These last few months, the flow of boats impressively decreased. Lina suspects that the women are now forced to take the plane. This would be more dramatic because they would have to pay back 60 000 euros instead of 40 000. This would take them more than 15 months to reimburse this amount. This is equivalent to work 7 days a week and make about 66,6 passes a week. Different routes are employed by smugglers. But the majority of the flights are destined to Greece or Paris ; before taking the train which brings the women to Germany and more precisely to Duiseburg. There, a building complex where rooms are invisible from outside looks like a succession of brothels where the prostitutes sleep and work.  

Any international organisation to help ?

According to a telephone tapping from smugglers, all the elements lead to the existence of a Nigerian organisation in development at the international scale : « We have to extend the network to all European countries and create structures as in Italy », « Italian bosses have to give their authorization to let us establish the same organisation as in Germany, in Luxembourg, in Netherlands ». In Catania, Sicilia, a lot of investigations are led about this mafia-like network. According to the investigators, these brotherhoods have special hierarchic structures, rules, procedures and integration rituals. The chief would be the Sicilian clan. The investigators would like to have the opportunity to compare their researches. This human traffic is mixed up with a low-price drug trades. As a consequence, the organisation is very competitive : about 33 000 euros per ton of cocaine sold, against 38 000 euros minimum for the other providers. 

Refuges for young women victims of the traffic

In Italy, a refuge for young women victims of the prostitution traffic was created. The social workers push the women to share their traumatic experience. Princess Inyang Okokon is part of the social workers and is fully invested in the association because of her personal experience. She was 12 when her mother died. She benefited from the support of the Church to pay the transportation costs and the school fees. At the end of college, the man who drove her to school, invited her and raped her. She got pregnant and maintained a relationship with him. She had 2 children and finally left him. In a relationship with an other man from the Edo State in Nigeria, she assisted to meetings of important members of the traffic. One day, a rich woman, an old « Madam », offered her to send her in Europe in exchange of 40 000 dollars to let her live comfortably with her children. But nothing happened as promised. She was sold as a slave and forced to prostitute herself in the street. During 6 months, she collected as much information as possible in order to fight against the traffic afterwards. She finally managed to run away and be spotted by the refuge where she works now. 

These sprawling organisations are even more difficult to find since the covid broadcasted. Less and less young women are in the street now. They are in flaps where it is more difficult to help them. These last years, they are sent in every country in Europe (Germany, France, Sweden). In Nigeria, Princess Inyang Okokon founded an association called Liberty Women in the Anka Ibom State. If the problem is not solved at the roots, smugglers would keep selling people during the years yet to come.

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