Tens of thousands of young African women are exploited as prostitutes under the control of Nigerian mafia networks in Europe (photo illustration) | Photo: InfoMigrants
Tens of thousands of young African women are exploited as prostitutes under the control of Nigerian mafia networks in Europe (photo illustration) | Photo: InfoMigrants

The Abbé Pierre Foundation which aims to provide access to decent housing for vulnerable groups in France has warned in a report that certain migrant women living in the street must resort to prostitution to find accommodation and repay their debts to smugglers.

In France, homelessness constitutes "a risk of entry into prostitution" for immigrant women, according to the Abbé Pierre Foundation in a report on poor housing in France published on February 1.

"In addition to forced prostitution in the context of prostitution rings, homelessness can lead to prostitution as a means of regaining financial autonomy and a housing solution," noted the French foundation which fights against exclusion.

"Without the right of residence," migrant women are particularly confronted with precariousness, the difficulty of finding housing and finding work in France. The Abbé Pierre Foundation warns of their vulnerability "when they are denied asylum, thrown out of the CADA [Reception Center for Asylum Seekers] and find themselves on the street."

It also happens, added a social worker from the Cabiria association, which runs community health programs for sex workers in Lyon, that they "prostitute themselves to repay their debt to the smuggler."

Also read: 'Europe's brothel': charity calls for Germany to intervene in trafficking and forced prostitution

Lack of housing prevents exit from prostitution

The report also reveals that these sex workers, whose profession is illegal in France, find themselves in a trap. Since their income is not declared, they do not have access to housing through legal channels. In subletting, they find themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous property owners who rent small, very expensive accommodation. "The owners who agree to rent their apartments without guarantee benefit from it. They sometimes ask for payments in sexual favors," alerted the foundation.

"A lack of housing is a possible factor for entering prostitution but it also appears to be an obstacle when a woman wishes to stop prostituting herself," added the report.

In France, there is a "prostitution exit route" (PER) [parcours de sortie de la prostitution, in French (PSP)]. The plan is accompanied by financial assistance and a temporary residence permit (APS) with the possibility of working for a period of six months which can be renewed. To obtain the benefits from the prefecture [local government], women wishing to leave prostitution must prove that they have stopped by allowing an association to look after them and by providing proof of their socio-professional integration.

Also read: Nigerian women forced into prostitution in Europe

However, the Abbé Pierre Foundation noted, once they no longer have a source of income, the people who renounce work as prostitutes lose their personal home. They become "dependent on [emergency call number] 115 and accommodation with a third party. Their lack of housing greatly complicates their integration and … can lead them back to prostitution."

Once the request for temporary residence is accepted, these women, although they are among the priority populations for social housing, struggle to access it, even if they work.

Women make up 10% of homeless people

The foundation, which in its report does a comprehensive survey of housing difficulties in France, estimates that there are 330,000 homeless people in the country, 30,000 more than the previous year. The foundation also reveals that 10% of all homeless people in France are women.

Precariousness affects single mothers even more, and a third of them are poor. Among those who live in precarious and undersized housing, 40% are single mothers with one child and 59% are women with at least three children, compared to 20% of the general population, wrote the Abbé Pierre Foundation. 

Also read: Sister Chiara's tale: 'We are just like a family here'


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