Escaping the sex trade: the stories of Nigerian women lured to Italy - in pictures

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By Barbie Latza Nadeau. Thu 1 Feb J oy, a the Nigerian woman, was standing in the street outside the sprawling, overcrowded Cara mafia Mineo reception centre for asylum seekers in central Sicily, waiting for someone to pick her up when I met her. It was late summerand the weather was still hot. She said she was 18, but looked much younger. She was wearing a faded denim jacket over a crisp white T-shirt and tight jeans, and six or seven strings of colourful beads were wrapped around her neck.

A gold chain hung from her left wrist, a gift from her mother. As we spoke, a dark car came into view and she took a couple of steps away from me to make sure whoever was driving saw her, and saw that she was alone. There were a handful of other migrants loitering along the road. The oldest of six children, Joy not her real name told me she had left her family in a small village in Edo state in Nigeria at the age of 15, and gone to work for a wealthy woman who owned a beauty salon in Benin City.

She had since come to suspect that her parents had sold her to raise money for the younger children. When Joy turned 16, she went through a ceremony that bound her to the maman by a curse: if she disobeyed the maman, her family would die. She believed she would be working in a hair salon. Instead of working for a hairdresser, she fell into the trap set by traffickers who lure women into slavery and prostitution. The rest will have paid the smugglers to get them to Europe, but once they get there, will be unlikely to escape the sex-trafficking rings.

She had no papers or passport. All she had was an Italian phone number, which her maman had stitched into the sleeve of her jacket. When the migrants got off the boat, an armed military policeman in a bulletproof vest stood guard as another patted them down and took knives from some of the men.

Those with documents were taken to a large tent lined with army cots. One woman handed out shoes and flip-flops, and another gave them bruised the apples from a large metal tub. Joy was mafia The new arrivals were divided into groups and put on buses. About 70km from the coast in central Sicily, it is a hellish place where the vast majority of African migrants who arrive by sea start their lengthy journey to asylum.

But often, before they can obtain legal status, they are claimed by the criminal underworld. The site was built as luxury housing for US military personnel, but it is ill-equipped to deal with the number of migrants washing up on the shores of Sicily. At last count, it housed 4, people. Accommodation blocks are often so overcrowded that people have to sleep on the floor or in mafia.

The buildings are overrun by cockroaches and rats that feed off festering piles of garbage, while mangy, flea-infested dogs duck in and out of holes in the razor-wire fence. Mount Etna, and its steady stream of smoke, is clearly visible in the distance. The centre has become a lawless place where people are easy prey for criminal gangs. The state funds these centres mafia giving them a sum of money for each asylum seeker, but many of them cut corners on food and other amenities, and pocket the profits.

Posing as asylum seekers, traffickers lure women out of the centre on the pretext of shopping trips or other excursions, and deliver them to the Nigerian women who control forced prostitution rings. They are then forced into sex work under the threat of violence, most of them — like Joy mafia terrorised by a curse that binds them into slavery. Several centres have become the subject of criminal investigations, revealing corruption at local and state level, sex infiltration by powerful crime syndicates.

Always quick to exploit new opportunities, the mafia is making vast profits off the backs of migrants. O nce Joy was taken off the bus in the reception centre with the other passengers, she was given a bed in a villa with 10 Nigerian women around her age. Most of them had come to Italy to work in hair salons, and all had contact numbers to call. A Catholic charity had given Italian phone cards to all those who had been rescued, which they could use to call home.

Joy still had her jacket with the phone number sewn inside. The woman who answered sex phone told her to the for political asylum using a fake name and birthdate, and never to give the phone number she had just called to anyone. She applied for asylum the morning after she arrived, using her own birth sex and the name mafia her younger sister. Once migrants apply for asylum, they can come and go from the centre at designated times, while they wait for word about their application, which can take months.

Joy asked how she would know who was picking her up. It was at sex roundabout that I met Joy. She said she might have to start by cleaning floors, but that she would work her way up. I asked her if she knew that a lot of girls like her ended up as sex workers. Eventually, she had to go back inside the compound, or risk missing her evening meal. Once again, her ride had not come.

I wished her good luck and gave her my phone number, which she saved in her phone before walking through the sliding metal gate back inside the centre. Later I would regret not trying to warn sex in a more concrete way. At the time, she was just one of so many young women I saw sliding into the abyss. Most are single and travelling alone. Others are provided with false personal details that they are told to use for their applications. Most of the trafficked women end up with fake documents provided by Italian organised-crime groups.

The documents are another link in the chain that keeps the women trapped in sexual slavery, because the madams threaten to take them away if they try to escape. Inan investigation was opened into forced prostitution at Cara di Mineo, after doctors at the centre received a series of requests for abortions. The authorities concluded that this was due to an increase in prostitution, along with a lack of birth control options.

Some aid groups have since tried handing out condoms. In Decemberfour Nigerian asylum seekers were arrested in Cara di Mineo, accused of drugging and raping a female resident. The woman had been told, like Joy, to wait on the street for someone to pick her up.

Realising she was being put to work as a prostitute, she had refused to leave the camp. The men raped her as a warning — a typical punishment in sex trafficking.

The theory is that if a woman realises that the penalty for refusing to prostitute herself is gang rape, she will likely agree that roadside sex the a better alternative. It is rare to meet a trafficked woman who has not been faced with this choice. After the incident, Francesco Verzera, a prosecutor with jurisdiction over Cara di Mineo, appealed to the authorities to sex down the camp, stating that overcrowding and lack sex supervision is creating a dangerous criminal environment.

T he complex that houses Cara di Mineo was built in by the Pizzarotti Company of Parma, which is still the primary contractor for US defence logistics in Italy. It was built for officers stationed at the Sigonella naval air base about 40km away. The boulevards and tree-lined streets of the compound were meant to replicate a US suburb, complete with a recreation centre, supermarket, American-style steakhouse and a coffee and pastry shop.

There was a baseball diamond and American football field, along with a non-denominational house of worship that doubled as a cinema. More than villas were built to accommodate the standard family of five. At that time, the complex was completely locked down, and the mostly Tunisian and Moroccan migrants were held until they were repatriated.

The playground equipment scattered throughout the compound is rusty and in disrepair, now mostly used by men in their 20s who sit on the swings and lie on the slides, whiling away the the hours.

Mafia bar is now the medical centre, and the restaurant a canteen where migrants pick up rations of rice and bananas. The recreation room is now a makeshift school, and offices have become dormitories. Inhabitants dry their laundry next to signs protesting against the Italian government, condemning the bad food and the time it takes to process asylum requests.

The incentive to return each night runs beyond food and shelter. The conditions are deplorable. Most of the villas house 15 to 20 people, sleeping in bunk beds or on mattresses on floors. The villas are falling apart, and the migrants are left to do what they can to take care of maintenance with scant tools. The stench of sewage permeates the grounds, attracting rodents and insects.

There is no cleaning service other than in the administrative and kitchen areas. Some of the villas are burnt out, and others are missing windows or doors.

After the Americans left, Pizzarotti removed many of the amentities — from washing machines and air-conditioning units to ceiling fans and bathtubs — leaving exposed wires and holes in the walls.

Most of the residents sex divided by ethnic or religious background, which has done nothing to reduce tensions and fighting. Every year at Cara di Mineo, on average, 10 migrants die while waiting for their asylum requests to be heard, killed in fights or dying from untreated medical conditions, according to Amnesty International and other aid groups that operate in the centre.

By law, each migrant awaiting asylum is given an electronic card to check in and out of the centre when making outings.

But Verzera says he found that migrants who had been gone for months were kept on the list for financial support. The centre was, on paper, far over capacity, and mafia extra funds to help with the overload when, in reality, they were taking care of far fewer people than the documents stated. InMaccarrone, who previously ran the migrant reception centre on the island of Lampedusacame under criminal investigation for corruption at Cara di Mineo.

He was accused of collusion with the mafia, and of using funds intended for the care of migrants and refugees for personal gain. The charges against him have since been reduced to aggravated fraud and corruption.

He maintains he is innocent, and is working as a volunteer at one of the smaller migrant centres in Catania while he awaits trial. In Marchin an interview with the rightwing newspaper Il Giornalehe revealed that the state had started investigations into prisons and refugee camps where extremists were recruiting migrants awaiting word on their asylum requests.

The alarm about radicalisation overshadowed the fact that criminal groups are recruiting migrants from the camps for forced or low-paid labour. At harvest times, men leave Cara di Mineo in the early morning and gather along a triangle of dirt off the state highway. It is a degrading display, made worse by the fact that the are paid a mere fraction of what Italians would be paid for the same work.

When asylum requests are rejected, applicants have one chance to appeal. If they fail, they are given a slip of paper that says they have five days to leave the country, but no means to do so. Torn-up shreds of those papers are a common sight in the ditches beside the road near the centre.

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Lesbian Sex Mafia. likes. The Lesbian Sex Mafia, founded in , is an information and support group in New York City for lesbian, bisexual. While men blithely rationalize prostitution in Italy, there is little thought for the Nigerian women caught up in the sex-slave racket behind this. sex mafia Check out for the latest videos of sex mafia at Times of India.