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7 Nov 2014
Italian coastguard vessels arrive at Lampedusa Island after rescuing people on the Mediterranean. (January 2012) Photo: UNHCR/F. Noy
An unknown number of Nigerian women who have risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Italy, have become sex slaves according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The women, who are mainly from Edo State in southern Nigeria, were promised work as nurses and hairdressers on arrival in Europe but were immediately trafficked into the sex trade.
Many were transferred to brothels in Libya where they were forced to pay off their transit fees.
An IOM mission went to Italy recently to find out about the migrants who have arrived there, the agency’s spokesperson, Joel Millman, told reporters in Geneva on Friday.
“The most notable fact that the mission wanted to point out was that quite a lot are from Nigeria, almost 1,300 this year compared to just under 400 this time last year. And according to the IOM teams that are debriefing them when they arrive at the ports in Italy, many are complaining of being raped or trafficked as sex workers during their journey.” (22″)
The agency says the Nigerians are part of what it calls an “alarming” increase of more than 23,700 women who crossed from Africa to Italy this year compared to around 7,600 in 2013.
Stephanie Castro, United Nations