Italian police have arrested three Nigerian nationals accused of belonging to a criminal organization involved in trafficking women from Nigeria to Libya and then to Italy; where they were forced to engage in prostitution.
Three Nigerian nationals accused of human trafficking and exploitation as well as living from the earnings of prostitution were arrested on Tuesday morning by police in the northern city of Brescia. The investigation involved wiretaps and made it possible for the police to identify two people, a man and a woman, who facilitated the entrance of women who had been trafficked via an organization with bases in Libya and Nigeria in order to forcibly engage them in prostitution.
The third person arrested was a woman operating out of the city of Turin and currently domiciled in the Mantua area, also in the Lombardy province of northern Italy. Through cooperation with the Nigerian police, one of the members of the group working abroad was also identified who had been tasked with transferring the trafficking victims from Nigeria to Libya, where they were put on boats to go to Italy.
Black magic used to exploit victims
The probe brought to light the use of "juju" or magical rituals to threaten family members in Nigeria as a way of keeping the women in prositution as well as forcing the victims to pay sums of between 20,000 and 30,000 euros in order to exit their situation and stop selling their bodies.
In order to ensure that the exploiters could 'cash in' on their investment, the women and girls entered the Italian migrant reception system and filed requests for international protection prior to being forced into prostitution.
This allowed them to stay in the country until the time-consuming procedure for refugee status had been completed. Once the asylum requests were filed, the victims were induced to flee the reception center and then forced to engage in prostitution in order to pay off the enormous 'debts' they were told they had incurred.
The police invesitgation found that violence had been used against the women and girls in order to coerce them into acts of prostitution. Six people - all of Nigerian origins - have been placed under investigation as part of the probe. Three victims reported their alleged exploiters to the police and told of the phases of recruitment and hardships they suffered along the journey, consisting of physical violence, sexual abuse and being held for periods of time at Libyan detention centers.