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Nigerian women face mounting danger of being trafficked

MESSAGE: A university in Nigeria warns students of the risk of being trafficked

HUMAN TRAFFICKING numbers of Nigerian female victims are increasing, according to a major new report.

The UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) baseline report, which collated data from January to December 2012, reveals 209 Nigerian victims have been identified – up by 22 per cent from the previous year.

Nigeria was considered the third worst offender for trafficking women and girls, many of whom come to Britain.

Eaves, the UK’s leading charity supporting female victims of trafficking, through its Poppy project has been providing secure accommodation for victims since 2003.

Sally Montier, a training and capacity building worker with the charity agreed with the findings of UKHTC report.

She said: “In terms of our project, between October 31, 2012 and November 1, 2013, we received 57 referrals of Nigerian women. This is the second highest referral country after Albania.”

Montier also pointed out a number of Nigerian women and girls are “being trafficked to Spain, Italy, and Belgium for prostitution and there is also large demand for street prostitution too.” Shockingly, she said that many of the “children were being trafficked into domestic servitude.”

Globally, approximately 2.4 million people are estimated to be trafficked as modern day slaves or for sexual purposes every year.

But campaigners are aiming to highlight the extent to which the practice happens in Britain. During 2012, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCO) identified over 2,000 victims in the UK. However, experts believe this figure may be higher because some people who have been trafficked may not consider themselves to have been exploited.

And the first ever Global Slavery Index, produced by campaign group the Walk Free Foundation in consultation with experts from international organisations, think tanks and academic institutions, ranked the UK 160 out of 162 countries with more than 4,000 slaves at present.

VICTIMS

In the UK, trafficking remains largely a hidden crime with few victims coming to the attention of authorities.

Human trafficking victim Dora, who was training to be a primary school teacher in Nigeria two years ago, related her horrific experience.
She said: “A man befriended me, offered a cleaning job in the UK earning me enough to go to university – my dream.

"Before leaving, he made me participate in a witchcraft ceremony, drinking a mixture of the inside of a hen, and making me promise never to disobey him or else I would go mad. I received false documents, including a script of what to tell border officials in the UK.”

EXPLOITED

She was picked up at the airport, driven to a house in London, locked in a room with three other women and then was sexually exploited for months.

The police eventually discovered Dora after a raid on her flat and she was placed in a detention centre, followed by a hostel.

However, the traffickers still hounded her: “They threatened to harm my mother in Lagos if I didn’t return as a sex worker. I had to go back.”
She was rescued a second time and sought refuge in the City Hearts Shelter.

Now a free woman, Dora said: “Perhaps my university dream can now come true.”

In 2011, Anthony Harrison, 34, of Stratford, east London became the first person to be convicted of trafficking females out of the UK.
He was jailed for 20 years after imprisoning two Nigerian girls – then aged 14 and 16 – before attempting to smuggle them to Europe.

A year later, Osezua Osolase, 43, of Gravesend, Kent was sentenced to 20 years for using witchcraft rituals to silence Nigerian orphans he smuggled into Britain for prostitution.

The forthcoming Modern Slavery Bill is currently being drafted to come into effect in 2014, and for the first time will consolidate into a single act the offences that are used to prosecute today’s slave drivers.

As well as improving the way victims are identified and supported, the Bill will work to prevent people from becoming victims in the first place by disrupting, convicting and imprisoning the criminals involved.

Security minister James Brokenshire said: “The Home Secretary and I have made clear a personal commitment to tackle the scourge of modern slavery and the organised criminal gangs behind it.
“The trafficking of vulnerable men and women is something that no civilised country should tolerate.”

He added: “The introduction of a Modern Slavery Bill next year will send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up.”
campaign

Eaves recently launched a new campaign called A Tiny Protest calling for major reforms to be included in the Modern Slavery Bill the government is currently drafting, and is calling for seven key principles to be incorporated in the Bill.

Dorcas Erskine, the project’s national coordinator, highlighted that one of the key problems lies in whose job it is to formally identify victims.
As it stands, European nationals are identified by the UK Human Trafficking Centre, based in the National Crime Agency, while victims from outside the EU are identified by the UK Immigration and Visa service (UKVI).

BRUTALITY

She said: “A lot of the women we have supported often face two nightmares for which it seems they will never wake, the brutality of the slavery-like conditions their traffickers have imposed on them; and then post escape, getting officials to believe them or even worse, finding themselves imprisoned for crimes their traffickers forced them to commit.”

She added: “I think if it is your job to keep border control then naturally you are going to look at things differently than someone whose job is to investigate crimes like trafficking.”

On November 6, the Christian group Soul Action, in partnership with Soul Survivor and Tearfund, presented Home Secretary Theresa May with a petition containing more than 9,000 signatures calling for an end to modern slavery.

Project manager Simon Nicholls said: “We have focused on the issue of modern-day slavery and human trafficking over the last few years starting with a campaign called Not For Sale – we are not for sale and no one should be.”

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