The United Nation’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has called the levels of trafficked women and girls from Nigeria to Europe a “crisis.”
According to the Guardian, about 3,600 Nigerian women arrived by boat to Italy in the first six months of 2016, almost double the number who were registered in the same time period last year.
In 2014, about 1,500 Nigerian women arrived by sea, and in 2015, the figure increased to 5,633. According to the IOM, more than 80 percent of these women will be trafficked in to prostitution in Italy and across Europe.
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Many of the trafficked Nigerian women typically begin their journey to Europe by traveling first to Libya then to Italy by sea in overcrowded boats and dinghies in a journey that is infamous for costing the lives of many.
In many instances, the traffickers use the facilities at migrant reception centres as temporary housing for the vulnerable women before collecting them and forcing them in to prostitution.
Simona Moscarelli, an anti-trafficking expert at the IOM, said, “There is little understanding of the dynamics and nature of this form of trafficking,” adding that “the reception centres are not good places for…women. Just last week, six girls went missing from a reception centre in Sicily; they were just picked up in a car and driven away.”
Moscarelli said further, “What we have seen this year is a crisis, it is absolutely unprecedented and is the most significant increase in the number of Nigerian women arriving in Italy for 10 years.
“Our indicators are the majority of these women are being deliberately brought in for sexual exploitation purposes. There has been a big enhancement of criminal gangs and trafficking networks engaging in the sexual exploitation of younger and younger Nigerian girls.”
The IOM warning comes even as a London Crown Court on 4 August sentenced a Nigerian woman to 22 years in prison for trafficking young girls.
At the end of the four-week trial, Franca Asemota, 38, was found guilty of conspiracy to traffic persons for sexual exploitation and assisting unlawful immigration.
The Vanguard newspaper indicates that she was part of a criminal network that trafficked in persons — some as young as 13 — from Nigeria to Europe using threats to guarantee the girl’s and women’s compliance.
Asemota was arrested in Nigeria through a joint effort of the U.K.’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Nigerian authorities extradited her to the U.K. in January to face criminal proceedings.