According to the United Nations migration agency up to 80% of Nigerian migrant women and girls arriving on Europe’s shores in Italy could potentially be sex trafficking victims, spotlighting horrific levels of abuse and violence migrants face along their arduous journeys for a better future.
In its report, “Human Trafficking through the Central Mediterranean Route” , the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) highlights the plight of those assisted by the UN agency and calls for urgent action against the “market” which are supplied victims was well as what is called is a “growing demand” for paid sexual services.
“Trafficking is a transnational crime that devastates the lives of thousands of people and is the cause of untold suffering,” Federico Soda, director of the IOM co-ordinating office for the Mediterranean, said when announcing the findings.
“This is a theme we have been working on for years, committing to protect, prevent and collaborate with authorities dealing with organised crime.”
According to the UN agency, over the past three years, its office in Italy has witnessed an almost 600% increase in the number of potential sex trafficking victims arriving in Italy by sea. The upward trend continued during the first six months of this year with most victims arriving from Nigeria.
The data feeding the report was drawn from IOM operations in various parts of Italy, where staff met with potential victims of trafficking as soon as they reached the country, allowing the UN agency to develop a list of indicators to help identify potential victims.
Described in the report, indicators include gender, most sex trafficking victims are women; age, most victims are between 13 and 24; nationality, most are Nigerians; and psycho-physical wellness, victims are mostly silent and often “controlled” by other migrants who speak on their behalf or refuse to let them be interviewed by IOM.
When IOM identifies a potential trafficking victim, they explain to them it is possible to access protection mechanisms and with the victim’s consent, staff inform the anti-trafficking helpline about the victim.
Also, if the person agrees, IOM staff provide assistance in communicating and filing a report to the investigating authorities.
“The report describes IOM activities in the face of this phenomenon: the difficulties of protecting victims and the main vulnerabilities identified among several cases of people who were assisted,” said Carlotta Santarossa, the project manager at IOM, adding: “We also wanted to tell some stories of people who have been assisted by IOM staff to highlight the true nature of this painful and hateful form of slavery.”