Spotlight on Nigeria

In the world of sports, you envision most people cheering on their favorite team dressed in their appropriate sporting attire.  You imagine the smiles and cheers when the team is doing well and the hope from others when their team is falling behind.  What you don’t envision is children, innocent children, being taken from their country to be yet another statistic in human trafficking. 

You may or may not have seen the article in BBC News with the headline, “World Cup Child Trafficking Bid Foiled in Nigeria.”  There were “nine young girls and one boy who were being trafficked to Russia.”  The commonality of trafficking comes across as you read that the airline staff recognized the unusual nature of an additional five other children trying to board a plane with one-way tickets to Russia.  According to this article, the most trafficked persons to Europe come from Africa, Nigeria to be specific.  Another appalling fact is the lengths these criminals will go through to traffic, like posing as football fans going to watch the World Cup, a completely harmless sporting event; so one would think.  

To shed light on the magnitude of sex-trafficking in Nigeria, I found an article from 2016 entitled, “The World of Nigeria’s sex-trafficking ‘Air Lords.’” This article makes mention of Benin City being a “human-trafficking hub and a good place to see how the criminal operation works.”  It is a sickening feeling to read what is captured next in the article, “how” they traffic.  There is a recruiter “whose job it is to find girls…they either approach girls directly through their families offering jobs abroad in a supermarket or as a cleaner.”  On the other hand, there are stories where women approach the recruiters knowing they will be taken to Europe to be a prostitute.  And, one step further, is the parents approaching the recruiter on behalf of their children.  

The article describes one teen’s recount of her experience as a returned sex-slave in Spain.  She understood that sex would be part of the “deal,” but not to the degree she had to endure.  Other girls would come back with a lot of money and make it look “glamorous,” stating “they had to have sex ‘sometimes.’”  The reality for this teen was different as she was raped and forced to have sex every day.  

How do organizations find new women who haven’t heard of other women’s experiences as sex slaves?  Easy, they search the outskirts of the city to find those who are unaware of what a sex-slave endures.  

Travel is one more element that must be considered.  Once these girls are picked up by “coyotes” or “trolleys” as they are called, they are “stopped by armed groups in the deserts of Niger or southern Libya demanding thousands of euros to pass.”  Amazing to think that multiple organizations are in “cahoots” to get their share of these women being trafficked.  Don’t think they are transferred  over night, either.  Rather, it takes weeks to travel.  “One girl kept asking for water and was thrown out in the desert in Libya.  ‘We were not human beings, we were animals.’”  A tag-team effort, these women are taken to “keepers” that will surely rape them before they enter into Europe.  The “hope” for a keeper is to keep the woman if she becomes pregnant as she wouldn’t be deported to Europe.  Trafficking really is all about the control that others have on those being trafficked.  Those that are deported will not make it to the supermarket or as cleaners, but instead will find their way into a house where they are raped with the possible outcome of pregnancy.  When sex is denied, “they are tied up in ‘the crocodile’ position where their hands and feet are tied together and left for days without food and water.”  

“Freedom” is attainable, should you work off your debt, an amount that could be upwards of 40,000 euros.  Once you have worked off your debt. you can become a “madame” and your role is to walk the streets making sure of the whereabouts of the girls on the streets trying to earn money.  The money earned is used for rent, food, and to the main organization.  “Higher-ranking madams collect money from subordinates to pass on to other leaders, always men.” 

Overall, you can understand how women, and sometimes men, boys and girls are trafficked from African countries to Europe, “overnight.”  This has been going on for years and clearly these organizations have it down to a science.  In some cases, women are searching for a “better” life and a way to potentially make money.  Other cases show that you can be taken without an understanding of where you are going or why.  Knowledge, is only half the battle when it comes to sex-trafficking; something that will take an “army” to combat. 
Written by: Katie Dreger

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