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Coronavirus in Italy: Thousands of Nigerian women left starving after abandon by sex traffickers

Sex trafficking in Italy: During Italy’s lockdown it is recorded that a great number of Nigerian women were left to starve due to being abandoned by sex traffickers. The women had no access to food or funds during the time period.

Thousands of Nigerian women forced into prostitution were left to starve by sex traffickers during the Covid-19 pandemic in Italy

According to the UN’s International Office for Migration (IOM), more than 80% of the tens of thousands of Nigerian women who arrived in Italy from Libya in recent years were victims of highly organised sex trafficking gangs.

How sex trafficking in Italy comes about:

The women are forced into prostitution to pay off debts of up to €40,000 (£36,000) and controlled through violence and fear of “juju” black magic rituals they are made to undergo before their journey to Europe.

During the prolonged and strict three-month COVID-19 lockdown introduced by the government, trafficking gangs abandoned women and their children who were unable to leave their homes or work and were left without food or money to pay rent.

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Given their illegal status, they had no recourse to financial assistance or unemployment benefits.

Desperate and forced to stay in their homes with no food or money, many women turned to volunteer associations for a package of rice or a loaf of bread.

During lockdown, anti-trafficking organisations said that more women came forward seeking help in leaving their traffickers. Yet this came with huge potential psychological and physical repercussions.

The juju rituals that many victims are forced to undergo, which involve complicated and frightening rituals often using the women’s blood, hair and clothing, bond the woman to her trafficker and to any debts she will incur. Those who are forced to undertake these ceremonies are made to understand the terrible consequences for the woman and her family if she escapes.