Nigerian prostitutes apprehended by police in Emilia-Romagna | Photo: ANSA/Ciro Fusco
Nigerian prostitutes apprehended by police in Emilia-Romagna | Photo: ANSA/Ciro Fusco

Police in northern Italy have arrested a woman who recruited young Nigerian women into forced prostitution. The woman has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison.

Police in the northern Italian city of Vicenza have arrested a 42-year-old Nigerian woman. The order to arrest the woman was issued by prosecutors in Bologna after a court sentenced her to a prison term of eight years, seven months and 28 days.

The judges found her guilty of "forcing or maintaining [young women] in a state of aggravated slavery" and of "illegal immigration," investigative sources said on Tuesday, February 16.

Forced young Nigerian women into prostitution

Investigators said the woman recruited young women in Nigeria and brought them to Italy via Libya and a Mediterranean crossing. The women were then forced to work as prostitutes along the 'Via Emilia' state road, in northern Italy near the city of Bologna. The crimes were reportedly committed between November 2014 and March 2017.

A 75-year-old Italian man was also investigated for aiding and abetting prostitution, together with the woman.

Police had launched an investigation into the trafficking operation after a Nigerian minor reported them to the police. The 42-year-old woman was sentenced to house arrest in July 2018, but had escaped. This week, following sentencing in her absence, police were able to track down the woman in Vicenza and took her to prison.

40 million trafficking victims globally

Human trafficking affects 40 million victims globally, according to the 2020 immigration report published by Catholic charity Caritas last October. 60% of victims are sexually exploited, the report found. One-third are minors and seven in 10 are women or girls.

The US State Department estimates that the number of victims in Italy are between 25,000 and 30,000, mainly hailing from Nigeria, Russia, Ukraine, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria and Moldavia.

Italy is often the first destination country for people trafficked from Africa -- with people being sent across the Mediterranean from Libya.

There has been a number of high-profile cases where human traffickers who forced Nigerian women into prostitution in Italy were arrested and sentenced to prison terms in recent years. Last June, ten people accused of trafficking and sexually exploiting young Nigerian women -- including minors-- were arrested. In July, two 'madams' were arrested for allegedly forcing 15 young Nigerians into sex work.

Four alleged traffickers arrested in Sicily

And last week, on February 12, four Nigerians were arrested in Sicily on charges of human trafficking, aiding and abetting illegal immigration, and forcing girls into prostitution. The victims were reportedly minors.

Police started an investigation after a Nigerian migrant girl reported the organization to the authorities. The girl had landed in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo after making the crossing on a migrant boat. She had reportedly started the trip with two other girls, but they died before reaching Italy.

The girl told Italian authorities that she had accepted traveling to Italy to find a job and help her family. Manipulated through juju rites (also known as voodoo rites) she promised to pay a debt of 30,000 euros to a woman who reportedly intended to make her work as a prostitute in Italy.

After arriving in Italy, the girl was asked to leave the housing facility for minors by members of the trafficking organization. However, she refused and reported them to the police.

 

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