Europe’s Nigerian Mafia in Focus: Tackling Smuggling & Exploitation of African Women

Written by | Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

Nigerian women constitute the majority among the victims of human trafficking from Africa to Europe, with most of them being forced into prostitution. The smuggling is run by a number of secret societies that are becoming increasingly violent. Along with other similar places across Europe, more and more Nigerian women also end up in one of Germany’s largest and most infamous red-light districts in Duisburg, a former industrial stronghold in the northwest of the country. And it is Nigerian human trafficking syndicates that are ‘in charge’ of smuggling the majority of these mostly young, disadvantaged women who have received “barely any schooling, and have just a single parent or no parents,” explains Barbara Wellner of Solidarity with Women in Distress (Solwodi).
It is this very vulnerability of these women what the human smugglers in Africa exploit and, with the promise of making good money in Europe, they get passed along a far-reaching network until they eventually land in Germany or elsewhere on the continent. Once on European soil, these women find themselves being ‘taken care of’ by other women who pimp them out. Between 2017 and 2018, German police registered a significant rise in the number of women as the victims of Nigerian human traffickers who made up the largest share of African trafficking victims at 61%. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of suspected Nigerian traffickers caught in Germany roughly doubled to 41, according to the Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office.
In 2012, Germany joined the EU’s ETUTU project, which is designed to crack down on Nigerian criminals trafficking humans around the world. Working with Nigerian authorities, this transnational approach to crack down on these criminal activities is absolutely essential, as most Nigerian women arrive in Europe via Italy. Since 2017, over 20,000 Nigerian women, many of them minors, have come to Italy via the Mediterranean. The UN estimates that some 80% are victims of human trafficking or are at great risk of becoming a victim. However, as long as cheaper, younger prostitutes are in demand in Europe, secret human trafficking groups will likely continue to flourish and make lots of money.

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