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nigerian trafficking in italy

Seeing Hillary particularly upset her. And churches also play a role in raising money. The Nigerian community in Italy is not large, and most recent migrants are afraid of causing trouble for themselves and their families. Four other young Nigerian women were already living there. Because of their complexity, in Italy human trafficking investigations are managed by local anti-mafia directorates – special prosecutors’ units created in the early 90s to coordinate investigations into organised crime in Italy. When she heard the news, in July 2015, that 66 young women from Nigeria, who had just arrived by boat in southern Italy, had been flown to Rome and taken to Ponte Galeria, De Masi had grabbed her car keys and rushed out the door. By Ottavia Spaggiari, Last modified on Mon 14 Sep 2020 12.00 BST. Human trafficking of Nigerian women to Italy began in the 1980s because of the demand for low skilled labour in agriculture and services. The notebook was a record of Susan’s debt bondage – a reminder that if she met more clients and made more money, she could supposedly earn her freedom more rapidly. The two main groups of Nigerian mafia that operate in Italy are the Supreme Eye and the Black Ax and are linked primarily to prostitution and to drug trafficking. Views: 1,548 Blessing Okoedion rose from being a victim of sex trafficking to becoming an advocate in the fight against modern slavery. What does the world want from Joe Biden? The trial was set for five months later, on 13 December 2019. There were no days off. By the time arrest warrants were issued for the four Nigerian madams, police had lost all trace of the girls. The trafficker called them “the little ones”, Pietroiusti said. Criminal charges are usually dropped, or reduced to exploitation of prostitution, which is a misdemeanour. De Masi told Susan she believed Hillary was a victim like her. They sat braiding each other's hair as they listened to Ms Egbon - and looking forward to the dinner to be made from goat's meat I had brought on special request from Palermo. The previous spring, Susan had been persuaded to make the journey to Italy by a Nigerian woman called Ivie, who she met in her home village in the southern Nigerian state of Edo. For Susan, Ivie’s conviction was more than had she hoped for. She reminded me what Quinto, who has salt-and-pepper short hair and always wears jeans and tennis shoes, often says: “Clients like me because I don’t look like a lawyer.”. The madam was frustrated by Marianne’s meagre earnings: “You didn’t come to Europe to play!” she shouted at her in a phone conversation that was intercepted by agents. Osas Egbon opened up a shelter for these victims of trafficking on the Italian island in January - the first of its kind created by and for Nigerian women. She remembers the names of all the survivors of the cases she worked on, and those of their traffickers. Joy Ezekiel was trafficked to Italy and forced to work as a prostitute. “She has nowhere to go.” An hour later, De Masi was at the lawyer’s office. Italy has been the stage for a cruel cycle of exploitation in which survivors of trafficking, after years of forced prostitution, have become traffickers themselves, the so-called “madams”. But neither of them will likely ever see the money. “It was as if justice had been served not only for Susan, but for all the other women we had worked with,” she told me. If she didn’t pay, or if she spoke about it to anyone, her mother and brothers back home would be in danger. Quinto speaks as if she is always in a hurry. 4Trafficking of Nigerian Girls in Italy. This time Susan wanted to talk. Wiretaps and surveillance revealed that Ivie was part of an international network. As more survivors arrived, Susan remembered her time with the girls as a stretch of lonely, desperate days. On a hot September afternoon I drove up to see the shelter in a sleepy village - far away from the island's capital, Palermo, so the women can be hidden away from those they are escaping. One reason convicting traffickers is so hard is because the crime usually involves large numbers of criminals working in multiple jurisdictions. She was nervous but determined. Victims are generally afraid to come forward, and few traffickers have been identified. It had taken Pietroiusti a year to gather enough proof to file a request for an arrest warrant, and it would take two more years for the judge to sign it. Sex trafficking is big business. “Let’s go,” she said. Ivie controlled her from afar, calling her often, and her new madam pressured her for money. Ivie had given her a notebook in which Susan was supposed to write down the amount of money she gave Ivie each week, and how much she still owed. Susan was among them, exhausted but determined to avoid deportation. And as noted in the 2019 trafficking in persons Italy report, approximately 80 percent of trafficking victims are from Nigeria. Two years ago she and her colleagues were greatly helped in their efforts by the Oba of Benin City, an influential Nigerian traditional leader, when he placed a curse on the traffickers - turning the tables on them. The lack of interpreters from west Africa who can translate intercepted phone calls was one obstacle. One underage girl, Marianne, was raped at a gunpoint by a client – a man who had posed as a police officer – and then forced to get an abortion. The judge had ordered the trafficker to pay Susan €80,000 compensation, and €10,000 costs to Be Free. One of them handed Susan a pair of high-heeled shoes and a short skirt. The women were terrified. 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I first met Ms Egbon in 2018, three years after she and other Nigerian women had set up the organisation Women of Benin City. The morning of the hearing, Susan wore a bright T-shirt with the words: “I must be successful.” Nine survivors were due to speak as witnesses in the trial. Several of Quinto’s clients’ families have been attacked. But this time, they were in luck. Centrist elected leader of Merkel's CDU party, Why California is struggling to contain Covid, The other virus that has scientists worried, .css-1snjdh1-IconContainer{display:none;height:0.875em;width:0.875em;vertical-align:-0.0625em;margin-right:0.25em;}Four-year-old's viral dinosaur song made into book. Nigeria has a history of hearing financial issues causing significant unemployment and poverty. She had built a thriving business, and trained her 24-year-old daughter to run it for her, exploiting women her own age and younger. Five months earlier, she had launched an investigation into sex trafficking in Tuscany, and ordered surveillance of the apartment in Prato where Ivie kept the girls. “As much as you can recommend them to keep it private, they are still girls – they might talk to a friend about it, and word of the investigation may get around.”. At first, it was often the police who would bring women off the streets to the shelter. The women each have their own rooms but share a kitchen and bathroom. Some of them bring new women to Italy in order to finish paying off their debt to their traffickers and find a way out of the streets, and others have been exploited for so long that they see exploitation of others as their only option for a better life. According to Quinto, the outcome often depends on the attitudes of whoever happens to be the prosecutor on the case. In one case, a survivor’s mother was killed. Human trafficking of Nigerian women to Italy began to occur in the 1980s because of the demand for low-skilled labor in … The defendants had chosen a fast-track trial – a tool in Italian law that speeds up the criminal process and, in case of conviction, allows a reduction of the sentence. Female traffickers could be in detention together with their victims. “I couldn’t continue like that. After the Balkan wars and the rise of organised crime in post-communist eastern Europe, De Masi and her colleagues noticed increasing numbers of women who were being trafficked for sex. “Using these very old belief systems passed down through generations is a psychological form of control that is much stronger than any violence,” Princess Inyang Okokon, who runs Piam Onlus, an anti-trafficking NGO, told the Guardian in 2017. “Everybody calmed down,” she told me. The judge would hear the witnesses in court, one by one, but the defendants would be in a separate room in the courthouse, following their testimonies via videolink. The UN migration agency estimates that about 80 percent of Nigerian women who arrive in Italy are destined for sexual exploitation. But after Silvio Berlusconi’s rightwing government issued new legislation in 2009 to clamp down on undocumented migrants, the police attitude towards sex-trafficking victims started to change. “In the end, many cases go to trial for minor crimes with evidence that is easier to get,” Quinto explained. She had been promised work as a babysitter or a supermarket cashier. Before arriving in Italy the women are forced to swear juju oaths - a ritual ceremony overseen by spiritual priests where they promise never to denounce their traffickers to the police, to obey their "mamas" and to fully pay their debts. By Editor on 30/06/2018. The madam would regularly check in with the Nigerian and Arab men who served as jailers. Francesca De Masi has been visiting the Ponte Galeria women’s detention centre in south-west Rome every week since 2008. As other women got anxious, De Masi took out her phone. She was especially afraid that there would be retaliation against her mother. What happens to your body in extreme heat? She began taking pictures on her phone of the apartment where she was kept, and even snapped surreptitious photos of Ivie. Pietroiusti is in her early 60s, and that day was wearing a sparkling blue glittery top, which made for a vivid contrast with metal detectors at the entrance of the building and the security guards outside her office – grim reminders of the dangers of her work. “She was outraged that someone she had trusted could put her in danger,” De Masi told me. There were no days off. Susan was never alone, but she felt isolated. “Some of the women need time to open up.”. The most important European destination for Nigerian trafficking victims is Italy, where there may be as many as 10,000 Nigerian prostitutes. From my afternoon at the secret shelter, it was clear the women there felt safe and happy - recovering well from their trauma. But people working with survivors believe that there is a widespread lack of interest in prosecuting traffickers, due in part to the fact that a large number of survivors are Black women. Be Free’s lawyer Carla Quinto pointed out that it can also afford them better protection: if traffickers threaten a survivor after she presses charges, police forces are usually quicker to intervene. Susan’s case ended up in the offices of the anti-mafia directorate in Florence, close to where she had been forced into prostitution for the first time. Then she would be transferred to a migrant reception centre. But about a week after her arrival, the new madam went on a trip to Nigeria, leaving Susan with another woman whose control wasn’t as tight. It supports female victims of trafficking in Sicily - the majority of whom come from Nigeria's Edo state, the capital of which is Benin City. As their train was leaving, they called Susan to tell her that Ivie had been sentenced to 16 years and eight months. But in February 2016, a magistrate specialising in organised crime, Angela Pietroiusti, launched an investigation that would cut through layers of prejudice and bring the expertise of anti-mafia units to bear on sex trafficking. When she protested, Ivie reminded her that she had paid for her journey, and of how much money she owed. The fact that victims are undocumented, and tend not to trust the police, means they become even more dependent on their traffickers. Several Nigerian trafficking networks have expanded … Nigeria is the first African country to specifically ask for an Italian intervention to address the appalling problem of trafficking in minors and young women from Nigeria to Italy. Video, Four-year-old's viral dinosaur song made into book, What does the world want from Joe Biden? She and her friends were prompted to act after the horrific murders in late 2011 and early 2012 of two young Nigerian women. She could not go back. Instead, she walked to the train station, intending to travel to Rome. This would protect her from deportation, but because she would not admit that she was recruited in Nigeria, Susan had to remain in the detention centre until the interview with the asylum commission, which was scheduled a month later. At 7pm, Pietroiusti’s landline rang. In 2016, around 11,000 Nigerian women arrived in Italy by sea according to the International Organization for Migration. Complex cases, such as ones involving human trafficking, tend to be passed over by judges, Pietroiusti said with a sigh, as they require more time and work to evaluate. Her madam had celebrated the final payment by asking for another €2,000 as a “gift” and offering Hillary the opportunity to become a madam herself. After her mother told Susan what had happened, she grew more determined than ever. In March 2016, about a month after Susan fled to Rome, Ivie sent men to her mother’s house in Nigeria. Before going to sleep, Susan took some selfies with De Masi and Quinto. rancesca De Masi has been visiting the Ponte Galeria women’s detention centre in south-west Rome every week since 2008. Furious about the lies she had been told, Susan decided to document her new life in Italy. Photograph: Reuters, Escape: the woman who brought her trafficker to justice, usan had been on Italian soil for exactly three days when, on 23 July 2015, she was taken with dozens of other new arrivals to a noisy, overcrowded detention centre in Rome, and told she would shortly be deported back to. In the weeks that followed, she began to gather Susan’s testimony. The murders shocked people in Sicily and put a spotlight on the harrowing experiences Nigerian women face in forced prostitution. To make the process less traumatic, sometimes Pietroiusti travels long distances to meet them in their secret shelters, where they feel more secure. The report said the Italian authorities “did not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking”. “They didn’t tell me I would come here to be a prostitute,” Susan told me. At the time, she wasn’t sure she would be able to do anything with them, but she wanted evidence of what she was being forced to endure. Are your tinned tomatoes picked by slave labour? Frustrated by Susan’s poor earnings, Ivie hit her so hard that Susan was afraid she was going to lose the sight in one eye. One girl's quest for clean water. The traffickers prey on the women's spiritual beliefs so they become too afraid to speak up, fearing if they do so harm will come to them or loved ones back home", Hundreds of migrants still dying in Med five years since 2015, Four-year-old's viral dinosaur song made into book. “They don’t remember the name of the city they were transferred to, so they are not considered believable,” Carla Quinto, a lawyer working with the anti-trafficking organisation Be Free, told me. In the mountains of Sicily a Nigerian woman is leading a battle to help rescue women like herself from a life of forced sex work. Female traffickers could be in detention together with their victims. “She was angry as hell,” said De Masi. Sometimes she and her colleagues approach the detainees in the corridors; sometimes it’s the women who enter the library and strike up a conversation. For Ms Egbon these oaths are the biggest obstacle to freeing women from the trafficking gangs and a life of exploitation. She wanted justice. Both Ivie and the new madam were calling her. Thanks to the detailed information Susan had provided, in June 2016 Pietroiusti obtained authorisation for a wiretap. One of the survivors got a bad headache. She had spent years in a shelter, sharing her room, bathroom and kitchen with other women. The Nigerian mafia has a strong presence throughout Italy. Sex trafficking gangs in Italy left thousands of Nigerian sex trafficking survivors destitute of basic needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hardest thing to bear was that her sacrifice was not even helping her family in Nigeria. One of the challenges was finding people who could translate from Igbo into Italian. But things did not get easier for her. Half a dozen people were investigated, but in January 2017, just four madams, including Ivie’s daughter, were indicted for trafficking 17 young women and girls from Nigeria to Italy. She was given the use of the property by an Italian friend. The investigation also revealed that Ivie had herself worked in the streets as a sex worker for a few years before becoming a madam. But Marianne, frightened and alone, ran away and went back to the madam, the only adult she knew in Italy. When she heard the sentence, De Masi cried. Members of the Nigerian community in Palermo have stepped in to pool their resources together to give what little they can. The lawyer established the most important thing: that the woman who had trafficked Susan would not see her. After the women arrive, they must start paying their debts back to their traffickers - which can be up to $35,000 (£27,000) - through forced sex work, often leaving them in debt bondage. De Masi’s fears proved correct. As Susan waited her turn to give evidence, there were moments of tension. Nigerian women make up the majority of African human trafficking victims in Europe, with most forced into prostitution. “I was crying,” Susan told me. Susan laughed, pleased with the privacy and comfort. Be Free rented an apartment so that Quinto could help Susan prepare for the hearing. “But we managed to find some of them,” Pietroiusti said with a smile. The first few minutes of the exchange are crucial. The room where the women were held was overcrowded and hot. A trafficked Nigerian woman in Italy in 2014. hen De Masi learned that Susan’s evidence had finally led to arrests, she was taken aback. Pietroiusti also has a rule: she only asks questions when it is strictly necessary. Susan’s main concern was to stay in Italy and protect her patron at all costs. “The less you interview them, the better it is,” she told me. Under an agreement between Italy and Nigeria, Italian police forces may alert Nigerian authorities so that they can protect survivors’ relatives once a complaint has been filed, but this measure has proven ineffective. The traffickers prey on the women's spiritual beliefs so they become too afraid to speak up, fearing if they do so harm will come to them or loved ones back home. She has no work permit. Over the course of a year, the investigation uncovered a sophisticated network of traffickers operating between Nigeria, Libya, Italy, France, Germany and the UK, which recruited young women and girls, and brought them to Europe. But everything remains so difficult.”. The madam she had been transferred to in northern Italy was never identified, nor were the male traffickers involved in her journey from Nigeria to Italy. The Nigerian mafia has built Italy into a European hub, smuggling cocaine from South America, heroin from Asia, and trafficking women by the tens of thousands. “They didn’t let me send any money home.”. The men who are the key players in Libya, Europe and Nigeria remain beyond reach. The Italian authorities have discovered an organization of Nigerian origins involved in the trafficking of minors for prostitution that made use of contacts in Libya and Italy to arrange the trips. ‘Susan is back.” The immigration lawyer was on the phone to De Masi. In Prato, Susan found herself living a nightmare. Even with the evidence Susan had amassed, De Masi and Quinto knew how hard it would be to put together a case against her traffickers. She kept records of phone numbers and notes of what happened to her. Follow us on Twitter @BBCAfrica, on Facebook at BBC Africa or on Instagram at bbcafrica, .css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link{color:inherit;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited{color:#696969;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link:hover,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited:hover,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link:focus,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited:focus{color:#B80000;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link::after,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited::after{content:'';position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;z-index:2;}Hundreds of migrants still dying in Med five years since 2015, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni declared election winner. Together with other madams, she moved young women, some under 18, across several European countries. At first, her life was controlled by a new woman who kept close watch over her. Susan had made it to Rome, and found the lawyer’s office before nightfall. As one of the key witnesses in a trafficking trial, it is too dangerous for her to go back to Nigeria. She had managed to keep the contact details of the immigration lawyer she had seen at the Ponte Galeria detention centre in July 2015. But the women around her were not laughing. Once every two weeks, Quinto, Be Free’s in-house criminal lawyer, joins the team in Ponte Galeria to help women who want to press charges against their traffickers. The woman who picked up her file was an experienced special prosecutor named Angela Pietroiusti. In May, a criminal complaint was filed against Ivie on Susan’s behalf. The law usually pursues the madams, but, as Quinto pointed out, 90% of them have been forced into prostitution themselves. “They don’t let you sleep at night,” Pietroiusti said. Susan knew that if she kept ignoring their calls, they would realise something was wrong. Italy was a major proponent of the convention, which was signed in Palermo in December 2000. VideoFour-year-old's viral dinosaur song made into book, Why a teacher was killed 'execution-style' in Ethiopia, End to Gibraltar land border prompts joy and trepidation. Thousands of young women leave home in Nigeria every year on the promise of a good job in Europe, only to be trapped by debt and forced into prostitution. Research shows that about 10,000 Nigerian prostitutes in Italy are subjected to human trafficking. I said: ‘I’ll never get used to it.’”. Susan remained silent. “There was no way I was going to miss this day,” De Masi told me. The number of investigations into trafficking to Italy dropped steeply from 2014 onwards, just as there was a spike in arrivals of Nigerian women and girls without visas. Once they got the wiretaps in place, together with police officers and translators, Pietroiusti spent hundreds of hours building the case. De Masi feared that if Susan was transferred to the reception centre, she would be picked up by her trafficker. In 2016 some 11,000 Nigerian women arrived in Italy by sea. She had to come up with a good excuse. “It’s the juju!” she screamed, convinced that she was being punished because she was about to betray her madam, to whom she had sworn an oath of loyalty back in Nigeria. “From immigration offices to prosecutors’ offices, every door should be wide open to them. De Masi and Quinto knew Susan’s chance of winning justice was small. “There was no way I was going to miss this day,” De Masi told me. A pre-trial hearing was set for July 2019, and Susan took the train to Florence. She currently has four women in their 20s, one with a baby - and hopes by the end of the year two more will join them. To make themselves heard above the panicked and bewildered voices, De Masi and other aid workers climbed on to a table and shouted. By the time the four madams were arrested, it was three years since Susan had filed her criminal complaint. In some cases, suspected traffickers walk right into migration centres to pick up their targets. The difficulty of bringing traffickers to justice is a global problem. On Wednesdays, De Masi and her team Be Free usually set up in Ponte Galeria’s library, a dark room with few books and many mosquitos. Soon after, Ivie picked her up and brought her to an apartment in Prato, outside Florence. Susan’s case involved thousands of pages of phone records and transcribed conversations. Some survivors are so scared of their traffickers that they deny they were trafficked and forced into prostitution, even when they are presented with the evidence. “So much time had passed, I thought the case had been dismissed,” De Masi told me. “We have to work.”, Susan thought it must be a joke. The Data, the Stories, the Social Services. .css-orcmk8-HeadlineContainer{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}Uganda's Yoweri Museveni declared election winner.css-1dedj2h-Rank{-webkit-align-self:center;-ms-flex-item-align:center;align-self:center;color:#B80000;margin-left:3.125rem;}1, Final execution of Trump presidency is carried out2, Centrist elected leader of Merkel's CDU party3, Tennis stars' arrival angers stranded Australians4, India begins world's biggest Covid vaccine drive5, End to Gibraltar land border prompts joy and trepidation6, Signal messaging service goes down amid user surge7, 'Like a medieval battle': The riots frontline8, Nasa's 'megarocket' set to fire up engines9, Why California is struggling to contain Covid10. Cases such as these take a toll. Women of Benin City runs a drop-in centre, offering advice and, importantly, emotional support, which sets the group apart. Nigerian women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within Nigeria and throughout Europe, including in France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Russia; in 2017, an international organization estimated 80 percent of all female Nigerian migrants in Italy are or will become sex trafficking victims.

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