“In the end, many cases go to trial for minor crimes with evidence that is easier to get,” Quinto explained. Soon after, Ivie picked her up and brought her to an apartment in Prato, outside Florence. She and her friends were prompted to act after the horrific murders in late 2011 and early 2012 of two young Nigerian women. At first, it was often the police who would bring women off the streets to the shelter. Sex trafficking is big business. The majority of sex trafficking victims are from Nigeria, although more recently their numbers have decreased; however, the government and civil society maintain that Nigerian women and unaccompanied minors remain extremely vulnerable to trafficking because of the continued operation of several organized Nigerian trafficking networks. “They don’t let you sleep at night,” Pietroiusti said. Sex trafficking is rife in Nigeria, in particular in southern Benin City, a recruiting ground for criminal gangs who smuggle women to Europe. On a hot September afternoon I drove up to see the shelter in a sleepy village - far away from the island's capital, Palermo, so the women can be hidden away from those they are escaping. “The information offered by Susan’s criminal complaint coincided perfectly with what we were finding in our investigation,” Pietroiusti told me. “She was angry as hell,” said De Masi. The first few minutes of the exchange are crucial. The Nigerian mafia has a strong presence throughout Italy. Follow us on Twitter @BBCAfrica, on Facebook at BBC Africa or on Instagram at bbcafrica, .css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link{color:inherit;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited{color:#696969;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link:hover,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited:hover,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link:focus,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited:focus{color:#B80000;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link::after,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited::after{content:'';position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;z-index:2;}Hundreds of migrants still dying in Med five years since 2015, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni declared election winner. The Trip to Italy Following her friend’s advice, she pays the required #250k and prepares for a … It supports female victims of trafficking in Sicily - the majority of whom come from Nigeria's Edo state, the capital of which is Benin City. Because of their complexity, in Italy human trafficking investigations are managed by local anti-mafia directorates – special prosecutors’ units created in the early 90s to coordinate investigations into organised crime in Italy. The madam would regularly check in with the Nigerian and Arab men who served as jailers. When police officers stopped Marianne again and tried to put her in a shelter for the second time, she escaped again. A lawyer from a voluntary organisation helped Susan make an asylum application that would allow her to remain in the country, and after a few more weeks in detention she was transferred to a migrant reception centre in central Italy to wait for her case to be processed. In addition to witness testimony, the wiretaps also offered a window into the violence that the victims experienced on a daily basis. Enraged by her meagre earnings, Ivie would yell at her: “You’re not a serious girl.” She was forced to work the streets every night, from 5pm until 3am, standing in the cold and rain. Not everybody involved in Susan’s trafficking was prosecuted. De Masi has been helping Susan fight for her right to remain in Italy and rebuild a life here. Quinto speaks as if she is always in a hurry. But to keep it open will be hard as she runs on a voluntary basis from donations. The exploited women, and their children, were abandoned and left in isolation without food or money during the country’s three-month lockdown, which started in March, according to a recent report by the Guardian. When De Masi learned that Susan’s evidence had finally led to arrests, she was taken aback. As one of the key witnesses in a trafficking trial, it is too dangerous for her to go back to Nigeria. Women being held in the Ponte Galeria detention centre for migrants near Rome in 2017. n Prato, Susan found herself living a nightmare. Enraged by her meagre earnings, Ivie would yell at her: “You’re not a serious girl.” She was forced to work the streets every night, from 5pm until 3am, standing in the cold and rain. Thanks to the detailed information Susan had provided, in June 2016 Pietroiusti obtained authorisation for a wiretap. The lack of interpreters from west Africa who can translate intercepted phone calls was one obstacle. Ivie had created a hierarchy, making it hard for the girls to bond. None of the victims were required to attend in person, but De Masi and Quinto were there to see the traffickers, who had caused so much pain and suffering, brought to justice. The woman had offered to pay for Susan’s journey to Europe and promised she would get decent, paid work when she arrived. Susan’s main concern was to stay in Italy and protect her patron at all costs. One underage girl, Marianne, was raped at a gunpoint by a client – a man who had posed as a police officer – and then forced to get an abortion. Italy has been the stage for a cruel cycle of exploitation in which survivors of trafficking, after years of forced prostitution, have become traffickers themselves, the so-called “madams”. But Marianne, frightened and alone, ran away and went back to the madam, the only adult she knew in Italy. The lack of investigative collaboration with Nigeria, Niger and Libya made it impossible to investigate or prosecute any of the middle men involved in Susan’s trafficking. Investigations are complex and often slow, while traffickers move quickly, relocate their victims frequently and change their phone numbers multiple times. Italy was a major proponent of the convention, which was signed in Palermo in December 2000. Hillary, another young woman from Edo state, had been given the role of collecting the money at the end of the night and checking on the girls. Five months had passed, and Susan looked very different from the distant and defensive girl De Masi had met in Ponte Galeria. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are currently about 40 million victims of modern slavery in the world, more than the population of Canada. rancesca De Masi has been visiting the Ponte Galeria women’s detention centre in south-west Rome every week since 2008. Together with other madams, she moved young women, some under 18, across several European countries. She would like to go back to school, but more than anything she wants to be able to work and help her family back home. “We have to work.”, Susan thought it must be a joke. Increasingly, the Nigerian migrants being forced into prostitution are minors, some as young as 13, according to the International Organization for Migration's 2017 report on human trafficking. Many Italians want to help Nigerian women, she says, but the trouble is that in a time of increasing anti-migrant sentiments, some other Italians do not want them to do so. • Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, and sign up to the long read weekly email here. “It’s hard for them.” There is also a need for absolute confidentiality. In some cases, suspected traffickers walk right into migration centres to pick up their targets. “As much as you can recommend them to keep it private, they are still girls – they might talk to a friend about it, and word of the investigation may get around.”. She managed to pay off her traffickers - and now lives happily with her family in Palermo but she has a steely determination to stop others having to go through the same experience. “I am not without sin,” Pietroiusti told me, “but among all the requests I get, I try to prioritise those cases that threaten human dignity.”, In trafficking cases, witnesses need both physical protection – they often live in shelters with secret addresses – and emotional support. Both Ivie and the new madam were calling her. “Criminal organisations are always ahead of us,” Quinto said. “I’d like to do any job,” she told me. In 2016 some 11,000 Nigerian women arrived in Italy by sea. If she had a fever, or had her period, she had to work. And churches also play a role in raising money. If she didn’t pay, or if she spoke about it to anyone, her mother and brothers back home would be in danger. After De Masi picked Susan up from the immigration lawyer’s office, she helped to get her into a shelter. The United Nations migration agency estimates that 80 percent of Nigerian women arriving in Italy - more than 11,000 in 2016 - are potential victims of sex trafficking. Be Free rented an apartment so that Quinto could help Susan prepare for the hearing. According to a US state department report, published in June this year, only 135 people in Italy were investigated for trafficking in 2019, compared to 314 in 2018, and 482 in 2017. Susan’s survival strategy was to avoid the men who came looking for sex – to work as little as possible. This time Susan wanted to talk. And with that, Susan disappeared. But after Silvio Berlusconi’s rightwing government issued new legislation in 2009 to clamp down on undocumented migrants, the police attitude towards sex-trafficking victims started to change. At 7pm, Pietroiusti’s landline rang. Four in five of them were destined to become victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. In autumn 2018, the so-called Salvini decree – named after the far-right politician who was then deputy prime minister of Italy – introduced a series of measures that made it more difficult for survivors of trafficking such as Susan to renew their immigration status and rebuild their lives. Criminal charges are usually dropped, or reduced to exploitation of prostitution, which is a misdemeanour. Such trafficking is not new but the numbers since the so-called migrant crisis began in 2015 have doubled. .css-1xgx53b-Link{font-family:ReithSans,Helvetica,Arial,freesans,sans-serif;font-weight:700;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;color:#FFFFFF;}.css-1xgx53b-Link:hover,.css-1xgx53b-Link:focus{-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}Read about our approach to external linking. Re: Nigerian Victim Of Sex Trafficking In Italy Tells Her Shocking Story by Nobody: 9:44pm On Jun 04, 2017 Afonjashapmouth : we don tire for dem story abeg make dem network muritala Quinto and De Masi share a passion for cigarettes, and the affectionate, brutal intimacy of siblings. “They don’t remember the name of the city they were transferred to, so they are not considered believable,” Carla Quinto, a lawyer working with the anti-trafficking organisation Be Free, told me. “So much time had passed, I thought the case had been dismissed,” De Masi told me. Nigeria has equally stepped up efforts to contain the situation. She began taking pictures on her phone of the apartment where she was kept, and even snapped surreptitious photos of Ivie. After two months, Ivie came in a car to collect her. Since then Ms Egbon says it has become easier to gain the trust of the women and she has been able to help free many of them. Once they got the wiretaps in place, together with police officers and translators, Pietroiusti spent hundreds of hours building the case. After the Balkan wars and the rise of organised crime in post-communist eastern Europe, De Masi and her colleagues noticed increasing numbers of women who were being trafficked for sex. Ms Egbon was trafficked 18 years ago from her home there to work in forced prostitution. For Susan, Ivie’s conviction was more than had she hoped for. When Susan’s turn came, De Masi approached her and asked: “Who brought you here?”. Several Nigerian trafficking networks have expanded … This time the madam transferred her to France, together with another underage girl. She did not yet know what Ivie had in store for her. But things did not get easier for her. Members of the Nigerian community in Palermo have stepped in to pool their resources together to give what little they can. The investigation also revealed that Ivie had herself worked in the streets as a sex worker for a few years before becoming a madam. The Nigerian community in Italy is not large, and most recent migrants are afraid of causing trouble for themselves and their families. “Trafficking cases are as complex as mafia cases,” Pietroiusti told me when I met her in her office overlooking the city of Florence, with Brunelleschi’s dome and the Tuscan hills in the distance. Every night in the rain, every day,” Susan said. Pietroiusti also has a rule: she only asks questions when it is strictly necessary. Wiretaps and surveillance revealed that Ivie was part of an international network. Reporting for this story was supported by the Global Migration Project at Columbia Journalism School. Read about our approach to external linking. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. “You deserve the princess room,” De Masi told her, giving her the biggest room in the apartment, with a queen-size bed and a television. The four defendants were sentenced to a total of 45 years for trafficking 10 girls to Italy and forcing them into slavery. If survivors do file a complaint, their families back home are at risk of retaliation. “Using these very old belief systems passed down through generations is a psychological form of control that is much stronger than any violence,” Princess Inyang Okokon, who runs Piam Onlus, an anti-trafficking NGO, told the Guardian in 2017. “She has nowhere to go.” An hour later, De Masi was at the lawyer’s office. Susan laughed, pleased with the privacy and comfort. “From immigration offices to prosecutors’ offices, every door should be wide open to them. Osas Egbon opened up a shelter for these victims of trafficking on the Italian island in January - the first of its kind created by and for Nigerian women. That woman was Susan. The defendants had chosen a fast-track trial – a tool in Italian law that speeds up the criminal process and, in case of conviction, allows a reduction of the sentence. The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, a key tool in international law to prosecute traffickers and protect survivors, states that survivors of trafficking should be offered temporary or permanent residence. Criminalisation of migration became the priority.”. (Foreign Correspondent: Louie Eroglu) She was especially afraid that there would be retaliation against her mother. Before going to sleep, Susan took some selfies with De Masi and Quinto. De Masi and Quinto bought a bottle of wine to celebrate on the train back to Rome. “There was no way I was going to miss this day,” De Masi told me. A pre-trial hearing was set for July 2019, and Susan took the train to Florence. They explained that they would need to speak to each of the women individually. “She was outraged that someone she had trusted could put her in danger,” De Masi told me. They made small talk and chain smoked. Frustrated by Susan’s poor earnings, Ivie hit her so hard that Susan was afraid she was going to lose the sight in one eye. After a few failed attempts to gather more of Susan’s story, De Masi, together with the immigration lawyer, helped her file an asylum application. What does the world want from Joe Biden? The women each have their own rooms but share a kitchen and bathroom. Women of Benin City runs a drop-in centre, offering advice and, importantly, emotional support, which sets the group apart. Ivie controlled her from afar, calling her often, and her new madam pressured her for money. In 2016, around 11,000 Nigerian women arrived in Italy by sea according to the International Organization for Migration. Pietroiusti is in her early 60s, and that day was wearing a sparkling blue glittery top, which made for a vivid contrast with metal detectors at the entrance of the building and the security guards outside her office – grim reminders of the dangers of her work. Four years after she escaped her traffickers and filed the criminal complaint that would uncover an international trafficking network, Susan’s life is still in limbo. Two years ago she and her colleagues were greatly helped in their efforts by the Oba of Benin City, an influential Nigerian traditional leader, when he placed a curse on the traffickers - turning the tables on them. Seeing De Masi and Quinto waiting for her at the station was a relief. A trafficked Nigerian woman in Italy in 2014. hen De Masi learned that Susan’s evidence had finally led to arrests, she was taken aback. Video, Four-year-old's viral dinosaur song made into book, What does the world want from Joe Biden? he trial was set for five months later, on 13 December 2019. “She had provided a copy of her notebook, photos, names and personal information about her traffickers,” De Masi said. Osas Egbon opened up a shelter for these victims of trafficking on the Italian island in January - the first of its kind created by and for Nigerian women. She had been trafficked to Italy in 2016 by the same woman who had brought Susan from Nigeria. Research shows that about 10,000 Nigerian prostitutes in Italy are subjected to human trafficking. Some women shouted in anger, others started to cry. The women were terrified. I first met Ms Egbon in 2018, three years after she and other Nigerian women had set up the organisation Women of Benin City. The defendants had chosen a fast-track trial – a tool in Italian law that speeds up the criminal process and, in case of conviction, allows a reduction of the sentence. Susan’s case ended up in the offices of the anti-mafia directorate in Florence, close to where she had been forced into prostitution for the first time. When she heard the news, in July 2015, that 66 young women from Nigeria, who had just arrived by boat in southern Italy, had been flown to Rome and taken to Ponte Galeria, De Masi had grabbed her car keys and rushed out the door. Sometimes she and her colleagues approach the detainees in the corridors; sometimes it’s the women who enter the library and strike up a conversation. One morning in early February, she packed her phone and notebook in a small purse and left the house, saying she had to meet a client in a nearby town. Instead, she walked to the train station, intending to travel to Rome. But in February 2016, a magistrate specialising in organised crime, Angela Pietroiusti, launched an investigation that would cut through layers of prejudice and bring the expertise of anti-mafia units to bear on sex trafficking. The madam she had been transferred to in northern Italy was never identified, nor were the male traffickers involved in her journey from Nigeria to Italy. She could not go back. After her mother told Susan what had happened, she grew more determined than ever. She had spent years in a shelter, sharing her room, bathroom and kitchen with other women. Under an agreement between Italy and Nigeria, Italian police forces may alert Nigerian authorities so that they can protect survivors’ relatives once a complaint has been filed, but this measure has proven ineffective. Her madam had celebrated the final payment by asking for another €2,000 as a “gift” and offering Hillary the opportunity to become a madam herself. Susan knew that if she kept ignoring their calls, they would realise something was wrong. “Oh Jesus!” Susan screamed, overjoyed. Seeing De Masi and Quinto waiting for her at the station was a relief. Susan’s case involved thousands of pages of phone records and transcribed conversations. From my afternoon at the secret shelter, it was clear the women there felt safe and happy - recovering well from their trauma. Susan remained silent. When she heard the sentence, De Masi cried. She saw the criminal complaint as the only means to fight back and protect her family. After the women arrive, they must start paying their debts back to their traffickers - which can be up to $35,000 (£27,000) - through forced sex work, often leaving them in debt bondage. “I was crying,” Susan told me. And as noted in the 2019 trafficking in persons Italy report, approximately 80 percent of trafficking victims are from Nigeria. She had built a thriving business, and trained her 24-year-old daughter to run it for her, exploiting women her own age and younger. The trial would last just one day. Escape: the woman who brought her trafficker to justice – podcast. Half a dozen people were investigated, but in January 2017, just four madams, including Ivie’s daughter, were indicted for trafficking 17 young women and girls from Nigeria to Italy. But neither of them will likely ever see the money. In January she made only €420. The traffickers prey on the women's spiritual beliefs so they become too afraid to speak up, fearing if they do so harm will come to them or loved ones back home. Human trafficking of Nigerian women to Italy began to occur in the 1980s because of the demand for low-skilled labor in … As more survivors arrived, Susan remembered her time with the girls as a stretch of lonely, desperate days. Female traffickers could be in detention together with their victims. • According to IOM, an astounding 94% of all Nigerian women trafficked to Europe for prostitution hail from Edo State, with Italy being the number one destination country. De Masi, who has worked for Be Free for more than 20 years, believes the hardening of attitudes towards migrants among Italian law enforcement authorities is not a recent phenomenon. “They didn’t let me send any money home.”. The difficulty of bringing traffickers to justice is a global problem. De Masi and Quinto knew Susan’s chance of winning justice was small. Filing criminal justice complaints is a way for women who have been trafficked to regain a feeling of power, De Masi said. She allows the women to stay in the shelter for one year so that they can recover from their traumatic experiences and prepare for their futures. The Data, the Stories, the Social Services. 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