One out of every two sex workers on the roads of Italy is a Nigerian
The thick-set 23-year-old Nigerian woman exudes strength, keen to overcome what she suffered in Libya and Italy before she escaped from the shadows in Rome and jumped on a train heading for Ancona on Italy’s Adriatic coast.
Not that she knew the train’s destination before boarding — she just wanted to flee her tormenters, run from beatings and sexual abuse. But it will take longer than a three-and-half-hour railway trip to forget the torments of the past.
Anna (the name she chose to protect her identity for security reasons) is one of more than 16,000 young Nigerian women — including many underage girls — who’ve been trafficked into Italy by Nigerian crime syndicates over the past two years, joining thousands of Nigerians who now make up nearly half of the street prostitutes working in Italy.
ProstitutionMany outreach workers suspect that most of the Nigerian girls, especially the more recent arrivals — although not all — knew before leaving Nigeria that their traffickers would put them to work as prostitutes. Many may have been sex workers before in Nigeria, something charity workers say shouldn’t matter when it comes to helping the women, arguing they are all abused and in need of compassion and help.
Either way, the trafficked women, they say, didn’t know how grueling their work would be in Italy, how appalling their living conditions, how poorly paid they would be and how long it would take them to pay off debts to traffickers, who charge the women upwards of $41,000 (35,000 euros) for the journey.
But staff at On the Road, an Italian charity that helps women break from sex work, say they don’t believe Anna was one of those who knew what she would be doing in Italy. They say she was duped.