Human trafficking is by every standard is an abominable practice. But while trafficked male victims most often are made to work as drivers, in factories among others, the females are always made to work as prostitutes or house helps often sexually assaulted. Many girls are said to have been either maimed or killed doing these debasing jobs. Are these all that the female gender is good for? PHILIPPINE OBETO DURU asks.
Jenifer, is a victim of human trafficking and as at the time of putting together this report was stranded in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai to be specific. She was promised a job in a restaurant in Dubai but three days after she arrived there, the story changed as she was bluntly told she was there to work as a prostitute. “I met a lady whose name is Chidera Nwabugo, in Lagos. When we met, she said she has a restaurant in Dubai where I will be selling food and drinks for her. I eventually came to Dubai with her. Three days after I arrived Dubai, she said it is not food and drink business that I will be doing again but prostitution,” Jenifer said in a video made available to us.
Since she started working as a prostitute, the crestfallen young lady said she has paid her trafficker a whooping sum of N5million in the last three years. “I have slept with 550 men here in Dubai. Now I am stranded and frustrated. She sold my paper, (documents) to somebody returning to Nigeria,”.
The trafficker, she added eventually got married and ran away from Dubai and has returned to Nigeria where she has put to bed.
“I want to go back home because I am frustrated. I don’t have jobs or anything doing here in Dubai. Things are hard here for me and I want to go back home,” Jenifer said in emotion laden voice.
Jenifer’s case is just one out of innumerable and deplorable experiences Nigerian ladies trafficked abroad have been made to go through.
Telegraph.co.uk in December 2019 reported that nearly a quarter of young Nigerian women and girls responding to a survey said they had been subject to attempts to traffic them into sexual exploitation, domestic slavery or forced marriage.
“UK charity Plan International polled 500 Nigerian women in their teens and 20s on their experiences of and attitudes to migration and trafficking. The survey found that many were keen to seek a better life abroad but were also at risk of being coerced into dangerous situations.
The survey found that 24 per cent of those questioned had nearly fallen victim to trafficking but had managed to escape.
And one in 10 of those surveyed said they knew someone who had been forced into domestic work, prostitution or some form of sexual exploitation either at home or abroad.
Quoting the IOM on the numbers of women who are trafficked from Nigeria into Europe, particularly into Italy, pathfindersji.org said “approximately 11,000 women arrived via the Mediterranean Sea into Italy in 2016, again mostly from Edo. IOM estimates that 80% of these young women arriving from Nigeria – whose numbers have soared from 1,454 in 2014 to 11,009 in 2016 – will likely be forced into prostitution as sex trafficking victims. Supra. (According to Italian authorities, there are between 10,000 to 30,000 Nigerian women working in prostitution on the streets of Italy.) 90% of migrant women arriving into Italy from Libya arrive with bruises and other signs of violence.”
These and many more are the ugly experiences of Nigerian young ladies in the hands of depraved fellow citizens working as traffickers.
Before Jenifer’s video was made available to us, a 28-year old Nigerian, Kemi, who was trafficked to Oman, told of how she is being sexually harassed and starved by her Omani boss.
Kemi left Oman in November 2016 to search for greener pastures after being talked into the deal by a close friend and upon arriving in there her host seized her international passports and other vital documents to retain her service as housemaid.
Narrating her ordeal to the President of Journalists International Forum for Migration (JIFORM), Ajibola Abayomi during an exclusive telephone chat, the troubled lady said within the last four years she has been resold four times to different masters where she worked as housemaid on monthly stipends that was never paid in most cases.
Some months ago according to her, she was traded off to her present master for 800 rials (N700, 000).
Although her current master placed her on a monthly salary of N70,000 per month however she had been under serious sexual harassment.
“At the current house I am now working, the man wants to sleep with me but I have been refusing him so he told me to go back to the office that brought me to him. I am being starved of food and kept indoors without being allowed to go out.
“I can no longer cope with this job so please I want to go back home. Kindly assist me. I have an Ordinary National Diploma from Offa Polytechnic; there are better opportunities in Nigeria. I am tired, all the money I have been getting I used to send it home to assist my younger ones” Kemi lamented.
Another Nigerian lady, Omolola, also suffered serious sexual harassment in the hands of her aged boss in Lebanon before she was rescued.
The 23-year-old single mother in an SOS video she posted online seeking assistance, said she was taken to Lebanon with the promise that she was going to work as an English Language teacher. But on getting there, she was sold into slavery and daily subjected to all manner of inhuman treatment.
Following the helpless condition she found herself, Omolola, relives her daily struggle of how her boss constantly tries to rape her.
“The person I am staying with often wants to rape me but I have been resisting him. He has seized my phone and threatened that he will not give it back to me if i don’t allow him to have sex with me. It is only when he is sleeping of has gone out that I secretly use the phone. Whenever he want to rape me,
“I always push him away. I am scared that he could slump in the process and die. If that happens, the authorities will kill me.”
The founder of RebirthHub Africa, Omotola Fawunmi, who has been reaching out to many of the girls and facilitating their return especially from the Middle East, vehemently opposed to trafficking of Nigerian ladies for prostitution and despicable jobs abroad.
“This is not all what females are good for. We need to understand that the concept of people trafficking people and sexually assaulting them is power issue. It is a function of the man feeling he is superior to the woman. The buyer feeling he owns the slave he has bought. So it is a power issue.”
President of JIFORM , Ajibola Abayomi , described the plight of the victims as one of the most disgusting things to note is the trafficking of the Nigerians girls abroad numbering over one million yearly according to the NAPTIP. Very dehumanizing is the manner the many of them were deceived that all was well in especially the Middle East and Arab world, whereas the reverse is the case.
“What is giving opportunities for the criminality is the loss of hope of job opportunities for the youths at home. Unfortunately many of these ladies never knew prostitution is the order of the day whether as housemaid or otherwise. JIFORM will advise every Nigerian lady to shun deceptive adverts being used to cajole their minds. It is an evil plot that must be shunned. No point to embark on a journey you would regret later.”
The nation’s anti trafficking agency, the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) , said it has not been resting on its oars in coming to the aids of the embattled ladies.
Head of Intelligence and International Cooperation Unit NAPTIP, Angela Aleakhue Agbayekhai, said the agency has directly been engaging the victims via telephone call/whatsapp chats, to interview them, learn first-hand their situation and location, transmitting information to the victims on location of Nigerian Mission(s) in that country as well as foreign partners (NGOs) they could contact for immediate assistance.
She added that the agency has also been transmitting victims’ information to relevant authorities like MFA, IOM, NIA, NIDCOM etc) for urgent intervention. “We have been contacting victims’ family members to establish the circumstances that led to their being trafficked apprehending those culpable in their movement abroad (traffickers) for prosecution.
We also expose repatriated victims to skill acquisition and empowerment.”
IOM, UNHCR: Latest Caribbean shipwreck tragedy underscores need for safe pathways
Geneva – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency are deeply saddened by the latest loss of at least two lives after a boat capsized off Venezuela’s shores on Thursday 22 April.
According to local authorities, at least 24 people including several children are believed to have been on board the boat heading towards the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Seven people were rescued by commercial Venezuelan vessels, and two bodies have so far been recovered, while rescue operations are ongoing to find other survivors among the 15 Venezuelans that are still unaccounted for according to authorities.
“The waters of the Caribbean Sea continue to claim the lives of Venezuelans,” said Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants. “As the conditions in the country continue to deteriorate – all worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic – people continue to undertake life-threatening journeys.”
This is the latest of several incidents involving the capsizing of boats carrying Venezuelan refugees and migrants towards Caribbean islands, the most recent reported near the Venezuelan city of Guiria in December last year.
With land and maritime borders still closed to limit COVID-19 transmission, these journeys take place mainly through irregular routes, heightening the dangers as well as health and protection risks.
“Shipwrecks, tragic deaths at border crossings and further suffering are avoidable, but only if immediate and concerted international action is mobilized to find pragmatic solutions that put saving lives and protecting human rights at the forefront of any response,” added Stein.
“The establishment of regular and safe pathways, including through humanitarian visas and family reunification, as well as the implementation of protection-sensitive entry systems and adequate reception mechanisms, can prevent the use of irregular routes, smuggling and trafficking.”
UNHCR and IOM reiterate their readiness to lend support and technical expertise in exploring practical solutions to provide regular pathways that also take into account COVID-19 prevention measures. UNHCR and IOM, as co-leaders of the Interagency Coordination Platform for refugees and migrants from Venezuela (R4V), work with at least 24 other partners and governments across the Caribbean to meet the needs of refugees and migrants in the sub-region.
There are over 5 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants around the world, 200,000 of whom are estimated to be hosted in the Caribbean.
Searching for closure: New study examines challenges facing families of missing migrants in the UK
Berlin – When a person goes missing, the existing laws, procedures and inter-state cooperation enable families to make the necessary arrangements and reach closure about the loss of their loved ones.
A new report from the International Organization of Migration (IOM)’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre and Missing Migrants Project shows this is not the case for people across the United Kingdom who have missing migrant relatives.
“The families who participated in the research in the UK are some of the tens of thousands of people living worldwide with the pain of not knowing the fate of their loved ones who went missing or died during migration journeys,” said Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in Berlin.
Over the past two years, IOM GMDAC has carried out qualitative research funded by Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs with families searching for missing migrants in several countries. The twin aims of the research are to amplify the voices of the families of missing migrants and develop a series of recommendations to drive action to support them.
This new report shows that cases of missing migrants in the UK extend far beyond the English Channel.
Nearly 300 people are known to have died since 1999 along the northern coast of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, in the English Channel or shortly after crossing into the United Kingdom, according to records collected by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project and the Institute of Race Relations. But the number of missing migrants en route to the UK is likely to be much higher. Many of the families involved in the research did not know the whereabouts or fate of their relatives in the Mediterranean Sea crossing and elsewhere.
“Besides the emotional toll, we know that the lives of people related to missing migrants may be forever marked by the many psychosocial, legal and financial impacts,” said Dipti Pardeshi, Chief of Mission of IOM in the UK.
“When I came here… I would cry every morning… I was crying over my loss and also because the future was uncertain then. I did not know what was going to happen,” said Emeka, a Nigerian woman living in the UK who is looking for her husband.
“I didn’t know if I would get residence here, or if I was going to be deported. That was what I was facing then apart from the loss of family,” she continued.
With the exception of the tracing service offered by the British Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in the United Kingdom there are no agencies or policies specifically dedicated to help report, locate or identify cases involving migrants who went missing while in transit to the country. As a result, families primarily seek information about the missing and rely on support from informal channels and networks, members of the diaspora abroad, and community-based associations.
The research, carried out in collaboration with Dr. Samuel Okyere at the University of Bristol and IOM UK, found that families of missing migrants in the UK may be migrants themselves with fears that searching for their loved ones could lead to being prosecuted due to their uncertain immigration status.
IOM calls for action in the UK, and elsewhere, to support these families. Objective 8 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) specifically calls on states to identify those who have died or gone missing, and to facilitate communication with affected families. The report includes 10 recommendations for how families of missing migrants in the UK can be better supported to trace their relatives and to cope with the impacts of loss.
Find the new report “Families of Missing Migrants: Their Search for Answers, the Impacts of Loss and Recommendations for Improved Support ” here.
“Living Without Them – Stories of families left behind” is a four-part podcast series produced by IOM about the research project with families of missing migrants. Listen to the third episode about the stories of families of missing migrants in the UK here.
IOM’s Emergency Director in Mozambique: Communities uprooted by recent violence in Palma require greater support
Pemba – Nearly 30,500 people displaced by recent violence in northern Mozambique face increased hardship as the humanitarian situation intensifies across Cabo Delgado province. Funds are urgently needed to respond to the emergency, which has displaced nearly 700,000 since the onset of violence in October 2017.
IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies, Jeff Labovitz, visited Mozambique this week to express condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones in the recent attacks in Palma, and solidarity with displaced and affected communities in Cabo Delgado.
“Cabo Delgado has seen unprecedented, rapidly increasing levels of displacement over the past year. Displaced people are vulnerable and in need of urgent and comprehensive humanitarian assistance,” said Labovitz.
“IOM is working with UN and non-governmental partners and supports the Government of Mozambique to alleviate the suffering of people who’ve been suddenly driven from their homes and communities.”
Labovitz met with humanitarian partners and government representatives, including from ministries and local authorities in the capital, Maputo, and in Cabo Delgado. He also visited resettlement sites in Metuge District and the Transit Site in Pemba, which hosts people recently displaced from Palma.
He spoke with host families and with displaced people. Many expressed their desire to move to a safer place where they could resettle.
At the Transit Centre Labovitz spoke with Rabia, a woman displaced from Palma who recounted her harrowing experience:
“My husband was killed, but my two children and I survived. We moved between locations for several days without food or money. We made our way to Afungi and from there we boarded a flight to Pemba.”
“I am going to persevere, but the situation is very difficult. I don’t know how I’m going to provide for my children without a space to live or equipment to start farming,” she added.
IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) continues to record, on a daily basis, increased numbers of people displaced from Palma to safer areas. Several days in the last month have seen more than 1,000 arrivals per day. Of the displaced, 75 per cent are women and children – including pregnant women and unaccompanied children – and more than 1,000 of the total have been elderly.
“Remarkably the communities of Cabo Delgado – who themselves have increasing humanitarian needs – host the vast majority of displaced individuals. Support from the international community is needed to relieve some of this pressure and focus more attention and support,” continued Labovitz.
He commended the government’s provision of land for displaced families in resettlement sites, which enable families to cultivate land and restart their lives. IOM-supported efforts to establish these sites aim to ensure more dignified living conditions for residents.
IOM is working together with humanitarian partners to carry out multi-sectoral assessments in order to guide the delivery of humanitarian supplies, including in hard-to-reach areas. The situation in Cabo Delgado remains critical, especially in areas that, due to the security situation, are inaccessible to humanitarian actors.
“Sadly, calls for greater funding for this emergency have gone largely unmet. We need to come together to ensure that people have access to water and sanitation, shelter and food and are protected from gender-based violence and other forms of abuse,” Labovitz said.
IOM continues to provide support to people displaced from Cabo Delgado through the provision of psychosocial support, protection assistance, support and referrals for health services, shelter and non-food items, camp coordination and camp management. The Organization is also tracking populations and their needs through DTM to inform the response. Most recent displacement figures are available here.
In 2021, IOM requires USD 58 million to support emergency and post crisis efforts in Mozambique under IOM Mozambique Crisis Response Plan, which includes USD 21.7 million to respond to immediate lifesaving humanitarian needs in northern Mozambique through this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan.
IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2021 and beyond.
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