Human Trafficking from Nigeria to Europe

Despite the transition to democratic rule, poverty, crime,
corruption and violence are fundamental factors in driving people
to emigrate from Nigeria with young women particularly vulnerable
to trafficking for sexual exploitation due to limited work
opportunities at home, according to the latest report in
IOM’s Migration Research Series.

"Migration, Human Smuggling and Trafficking from Nigeria to
Europe", which examines the causes of human trafficking, changing
trends and organization of Nigerian trafficking networks, says that
although women are increasingly becoming aware that they will be
working in the sex business when offered jobs in Europe,  they
are often unaware of the circumstances that await them. Most of the
women, the report adds, incur debts of anywhere between
US$40,000-100,000 to traffickers in their bid to reach Europe.

Although half of the several hundreds of thousands of Nigerians
in Europe live in the United Kingdom, Italy is host to the
second-largest group of Nigerians and is the most important
destination for Nigerian victims of trafficking. Estimates of the
share of Nigerians among foreign prostitutes in Italy in recent
years have varied from about a quarter to a half with Turin the
first stop for many of the Nigerians arriving in the country.

Other major destinations include the Netherlands, Spain,
Germany, Belgium and Austria with France also increasingly becoming
a destination point. The source of victims is predominantly from
Edo State in the south of the country with Benin City identified as
the main junction for prostitution related emigration.

The dynamics of Nigerian trafficking are also characterized by
creation of a binding pact which both sides have to honour –
the victim has to pay off the debt regardless of what is suffered
along the way, and the trafficker has to let the victim earn money
for herself after the debt has been paid off. This differs greatly
from trafficking in other parts of the world where force is more
commonly used. If the Nigerian victim is uncooperative, however,
she may be exposed to a mixture of violence and rituals which are
coercive. In some cases, increasing counter-trafficking efforts by
law enforcers in Europe and Nigeria have also led to the wider use
of violence by traffickers in a bid to maintain control over the
victims. Victims feel that breaking the pact would then not only
affect their own physical and mental health, but would also shame
the entire community back home.

Another characteristic of Nigerian trafficking is that it is
organized primarily by women. Many of the traffickers have
themselves been trafficking victims. Women who fulfill the pact are
free to earn a living on their own often find it difficult to find
work in Europe that is unrelated to the trafficking business.

For many families, having a daughter going to Europe represents
the only escape route from poverty. Many of the trafficked women
are the eldest child or eldest daughter and are made to feel a
heavy responsibility for taking care of the family. As awareness of
trafficking in Nigeria increases, traffickers have in recent years
are turning to rural areas where women and girls have less access
to information, usually poorer and often easier to influence
through religious rituals.

The report, researched by the International Peace Research
Institute in Norway and funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice
and the Police, also looks at smuggling routes used for getting
irregular migrants into Europe and identifies the loose structure
of Nigerian organized crime as key to its efficiency and constant
reproduction and therefore, harder to fight.

For further information, please contact:

Jemini Pandya

IOM Geneva

Tel: + 41 22 717 9486

Mobile: + 41 79 217 3374

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Jorgen Carling


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