Nigerians Arrested in Russia over Sex Slavery

By Admin, January 8, 2019.

Following the 2018 World Cup in Russia, not less than two Nigerians have been charged to court in Moscow for trafficking into sex slavery. Blessing Obuson who flew from Nigeria to Russia in June 2018 on a Supper Eagles’ fan ID for the World Cup.

They were arrested this year after they struck a deal to sell Obuson for 2 million roubles (around $30,000) to an undercover police officer who posed as a client.

Details of the case are in documents supplied by her lawyer, statements from prosecutors, and evidence presented at court hearings attended by Reuters journalists.

1,863 Nigerians overstay in Russia

Russian police confirm that 1,863 Nigerians who entered the country with fan IDs had not left by January 1, 2019, the date the IDs expired.

Kenny Kehindo, who works with several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Moscow to help sex trafficking victims, estimates that more than 2,000 Nigerian women were brought in on fan IDs.

Obuson told Reuters she thought the World Cup would be an opportunity to find a job and flew into Moscow from Nigeria on a fan ID.

Instead, she found herself forced to work as a prostitute.

Fan IDs allowed visa-free entry to World Cup supporters with match tickets, but did not confer the right to work.

Locked up, forced into sex

Despite that, Obuson, 19, said she had hoped to work as a shop assistant to provide for her two-year-old daughter and younger siblings in Edo State.

Instead, she said she was locked in a flat on the outskirts of Moscow and forced into sex work along with 11 other Nigerian women who were supervised by a madam, also from Nigeria.

“I cried really hard. But what choice did I have?” Obuson told Reuters after being freed by anti-slavery activists.

She said her madam had confiscated her passport and told her she would only get it back once she had worked off a fictional debt of $50,000.

Obuson told her story to a rare English-speaking client who got anti-slavery activists involved.

‘No food. They beat you up. It’s like a cage’

Obuson’s case is not isolated.

Reuters met eight Nigerian women aged between 16 and 22 brought into Russia on fan IDs and forced into sex work.

All said they had endured violence.

“They don’t give you food for days, they slap you, they beat you, they spit in your face .… It’s like a cage,” said one 21-year old woman, who declined to be named.

In September 2018, a Nigerian woman was killed by a man who refused to pay for sex, police said.

The Nigerian embassy later identified her as 22-year old Alifat Momoh who had come to Russia from Nigeria with a fan ID.

Neither Russian police nor the Nigerian embassy in Moscow replied to requests for a comment. A Nigerian foreign ministry spokesman also did not respond to text messages and phone calls requesting a comment.

“Many are still in slavery,” said Kehindo, adding that he had helped around 40 women return to Nigeria.

“Fan ID is a very good thing, but in the hands of the human traffickers it’s just an instrument.”

He sought more cooperation between the authorities and anti-trafficking NGOs during major sporting events, including the 2022 Qatar World Cup where a fan ID system is also being considered.

Anti-slavery group Alternativa said its helpline had fielded calls from Nigerian women held in St Petersburg and other World Cup host cities.

While a prosecution has been launched in Obuson’s case, police have been unable to act against suspected traffickers in other cases due to a lack of evidence.

“A lot of girls are still out there,” Obuson said.

Nigerians in sex slavery elsewhere

In January, about 20,000 Nigerian women, aged 16-30, mainly from the South South, were discovered in sex cells in Mali where sex traffickers detoured them from their quest for jobs in Europe and Asia.

Some have been rescued by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). Others refuse to give up the dingy life.

Sex trafficking is a global problem linking both rich and poor nations from the Americas, across Europe to Asia, Africa, and Australasia.

Global Dataset hosted by the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC) of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has a map based on information about 91,000 victims of human trafficking of 169 nationalities who experienced exploitation in 172 countries.

Nearly two-thirds of the 36 million victims of human trafficking in the world are from Asia, according to the 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI).

Treated like slaves

NAPTIP Director General, Julie Okah-Donli, disclosed in Lagos on January 22 that NAPTIP and IOM officials found the Nigerians in southern Mali last December.

Dozens of women and girls were repatriated from the Kangaba area of southern Mali in the preceding months, she said.

The team went to the area to investigate and found hundreds more being held there, Okah-Donli said.

“They were reliably informed by the locals that they had over 200 such places scattered around the southern part of Mali.

“In each of the shacks where they held them they had 100 to 150 girls in the area. That is how we came to the figure” of at least 20,000 being held, she explained.

The women and girls had been told they would be taken to Malaysia to work in hospitality but instead were forced into prostitution.

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

NAPTIP partnered IOM to arrange the repatriation of 41 women and girls from Mali last December and is working on returning others home.

Some are also trafficked to Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Cote D’Ivoire.

Okah-Donli said the victims come mostly from Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Anambra, and Edo States.

Many of the girls work in hotels and nightclubs after being sold to prostitution rings by human traffickers.

Detoured from Malaysia to Mali

NAPTIP’s Arinze Osakwe told CNN most of the girls said they were lured by human traffickers who promised them employment in Malaysia.

“The new trend is that they told them they were taking them to Malaysia and they found themselves in Mali.

“They told them they would be working in five-star restaurants where they would be paid $700 per month,” said Osakwe, who was part of an earlier NAPTIP rescue mission.

Some of the girls were sold as sex slaves in gold mining camps in northern parts of Mali, he added.

NAPTIP officials under Operation Timbuktu rescued 104 Nigerian girls from three brothels in Bamako, Mali’s capital in 2011.

They were forced to become sex workers in mining communities in northern Mali.

“We brought back 104 girls just from three ramshackle brothels, and those were the ones that were even willing to come.

“They were mostly between the ages of 13 and 25, and they had been trapped in the country for many years,” Osakwe said.

“Since then, we have been working with local authorities and receiving reports from the Nigerian embassy in Bamako that the number of Nigerian girls trafficked to Mali has spiked tremendously.”

NAPTIP is working with Malian authorities, IOM, and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to send the girls back to Nigeria.

Every year, tens of thousands of Nigerians are trafficked illegally to destinations abroad, especially Europe.

About 97 per cent are women, and 77 per cent have been sexually exploited by their traffickers, according to IOM estimates.

Human trafficking is controlled by prostitution rings, gangs, family members, and forced marriage arrangers.

According to Wikipedia, there is not one simple factor that perpetuates sex trafficking; the causes are a complex, interconnected web of political, socioeconomic, governmental, and societal factors.

Three types of causes identified are gender hierarchies, migration for work (pull factors), and neoliberal globalisation (push factors).

The causes of sex trafficking lie at the intersections of these factors.

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