CATANIA, Italy, Sept 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Nigerian teenager Beauty arrived in Sicily after crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa last year, she had only hours to phone the man who trafficked her – or risk lethal repercussions for family members back home.
Before her journey through Niger to Libya, a spiritual priest practicing a form of black magic known in Nigeria as “juju” had forced her to swear an oath of obedience to her trafficker.
The threat of a “curse” if she broke her oath and the possibility of violence by her traffickers at home in Benin City, a southern Nigerian hub for human trafficking, were enough to trap her into sex slavery.
“If I had reported him to the police, my family would have been in great danger,” said Beauty, 19, fiddling with black-and-blond braids as she recalled the events of last summer.
“At the (migrant) camp a man came to pick me up in a car. I got into the car and I was taken away.”
Beauty, who uses a pseudonym and declined to reveal her full name, is one of around 12,000 Nigerian women who reached Italy by sea over the past two years, official data shows.
That’s a six-fold increase over the previous two-year period, with the majority – almost 80 percent – of the young women victims of trafficking, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).