The World Cup, ending this Sunday, brought to Moscow fans from all over the world. Among them were at least 300 Nigerian fans who had hoped to see their national team clinch the trophy.
However, among them were other ‘fans’ who went to Russia with the hope of gaining employment.
Upon arrival, they were surprised to discover it was part of an elaborate scam. Not only were the numbers of their ‘prospective employers’ fake, the money they had carried was not enough to cater for their accommodation and food in the Russian capital.
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According to Alternativa, a movement against human trafficking and slavery, at least 60 Nigerians have been stranded in the streets of Moscow after they realised that their return tickets were cancelled by the agency in Nigeria. This meant that they had to pay their own way back to their homes.
According to the AFP, the Nigerians had purchased the tickets that included plastic-coated passes that enable foreign fans to enter Russia without a visa during the World Cup.
It is not indicated how the Nigerians were able to obtain these tickets and sell them to fans, although there were reports of plans by human traffickers to flood the World Cup with trafficked people including sex workers.
The football governing body, FIFA stated that it is making effort to identify and stop unauthorised sales of passes.
The Nigerians are currently at the Nigerian Embassy and at the Vnukovo airport in Moscow, seeking help to get home.
“We’ve been sleeping on the floor like fools. We’ve got no place to go. We really do want to go back to our country. We’ve cried, we’ve wept, but still, no solution,” Alonge Ademola, 35, a cement dealer from Lagos told AFP.
According to Crime Russia, some Nigerians ended up at the Sheremetyevo in a bid to get on a Turkish Airline flight that was rumoured to take them home but in vain.
“[On Thursday] in Sheremetyevo about 40 citizens of Nigeria, when attempting to fly to their homeland, encountered problems on registration, their return tickets were invalid,” the Interfax source at the airport said
Alternativa has already helped 50 Nigerians so far, but it believes the number of stranded football fans is still high.
The Nigerian embassy, according to Ambassador Steve Davis Ugbah, is unable to pay for the tickets of all the fans and has since turned to the Russian authorities for help.
He has also counted out the deportation of his country people, insisting that a solution will be found soon.
It is against FIFA rules and values to practice human trafficking.
“Practices of human trafficking are in opposition to FIFA’s own values. The competence to address issues related to human trafficking, like any other criminal activity, is with the relevant national and international authorities (policy, judicial and governmental), and FIFA welcomes the steps that are taken in that respect,” FIFA said on Friday.