Nigeria/ Mali sex trafficking

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As many as 20,000 women and girls are feared to have been trafficked from Nigeria to Mali where they are stranded after being forced into prostitution, the head of Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency said.

Julie Okah-Donli, director general of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), said a fact-finding team from NAPTIP and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) had uncovered the extent of the trafficking during a visit to southern Mali last month.

Dozens of women and girls were repatriated from Kangaba in southern Mali in preceding months. The team, which went to the area to investigate, found hundreds being held there, Okah-Donli said in a telephone interview.

“They were reliably informed by locals they had over 200 such places scattered around the southern part of Mali. In each of the shacks they had 100 to 150 girls. That is how we came to the figure of at least 20,000 being held,” she said.

The women and girls, aged 16 to 30, were told they would be taken to Malaysia to work in hospitality but were forced into prostitution.

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“They are held in horrible, slave-like conditions,” said Okah-Donli. “They can’t escape because they are kept in remote locations deep in forests.”

Thousands of women and girls are taken out of Africa’s most populous country each year, where 70% of 190 million inhabitants live on less than two dollars a day. A large proportion of them arrive in Europe but others are transported to west Africa.

Okah-Donli said her agency partnered with IOM, which arranged the repatriation of 41 women and girls from Mali in December and was working on returning others home.

They come mostly from states in southern Nigeria, including Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Anambra and Edo.

Others are thought to be trafficked to other west African countries including Ghana, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, said Okah-Donli.