40,000 Nigerian Women found in Mali “Slave Camps”

Up to 40,000 Nigerian girls are being forced to work as prostitutes in Mali “slave camps”, Nigerian officials have said. The girls have often been promised jobs in Europe but ended up in brothels in the capital or mining towns, said the government’s anti-trafficking agency. The brothels are run by older Nigerian women who prevent them from leaving and take all their earnings.

The agency said it was working with Malian police to free the girls and help them return to Nigeria. National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) said officials visited Mali this month to follow up the “horrendous reports” from victims, aid workers and clergy in Mali. They found hundreds of brothels, each housing up to 200 girls, run by Nigerian “madams” who force them to work against their will and take their earnings. NAPTIP estimates that there are between 20,000 and 40,000 Nigerian women and girls living in such conditions. “The girls are held in bondage for the purposes of forced sexual exploitation and servitude or slavery-like practices,” NAPTIP’s executive secretary, Simon Egede, told a news conference in Abuja.

“The madams control their freedom of movement, where they work, when they work and what they receive,” he said. The trade is centred around the capital Bamako and large cities, but the most notorious brothels are in the mining towns of Kayes and Mopti, where the sex workers live in “near slavery condition”. Many of the brothels there also had abortion clinics where foetuses were removed by traditional healers for use in rituals, said Egede. Most of the girls were reported to have come from Delta and Edo states.

They were lured with the promise of work in Europe, given fake travel documents and made to swear on oath that they would not tell anyone where they were going. On arrival in Mali they were told they would have to work as prostitutes to pay off their debts. NAPTIP said it had also uncovered two major trafficking routes used to transport the women from Nigeria through Benin, Niger or Bukina Faso to Mali.

Egede said NAPTIP was working with the police in Mali to return the girls to Nigeria safely, shut down the trade and prosecute the traffickers.

Culled from BusinessDay

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