The number of young African girls trafficked to Europe for prostitution has increased by almost 600 percent in the first half of this year.
In its report, which was released last week in Italian, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) warns that the sexual exploitation of African migrants in Europe has reached disturbing levels, with the majority of victims being young girls who are already subject to abuse on their way to Europe.
“Trafficking is a transnational crime that devastates the lives of thousands of people and is the cause of untold suffering,” says Federico Soda, director of the IOM Coordinating Office for the Mediterranean.
“This is a theme we have been working on for years, committing to protect, prevent, and collaborate with the authorities dealing with organized crime.”
The findings are based on information collected by IOM at landing sites and reception centers for migrants in different parts of southern Italy.
The organization has been working in these centers with the aim of identifying potential victims and assisting those who escape their exploiters and are willing to accept its support.
Very often the young women whom IOM staff meet have been victims of sexual violence during their journey, and they have experienced serious trauma and suffer from psychological distress.
IOM Project Manager Carlotta Santarossa says the principle purpose of the report, whose English version will be released soon, was to highlight the painful reality of the hateful form of slavery being meted out on defenseless migrants.
Santarossa has also called on all relevant agencies to carry out an urgent data analysis and an examination of the market that these girls supply as well as the growing demand for paid sexual services.
The report cites Nigeria as the main nationality to which the majority of the sex trafficking victims belong, with states like Edo, Delta, Lagos, Ogun, Anambra, and Imo being the most affected.
“IOM estimates that 80 percent of girls arriving from Nigeria – whose numbers have soared from 1,454 in 2014 to 11,009 in 2016 – are potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation,” the report claims.
Africa-Europe Migration Crisis
Since 2011 after the fall of Libya’s longtime President Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has become the main transit point for hundreds of thousands of African refugees and migrants attempting to reach Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
This mass exodus has brought in its wake an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with thousands of migrants, including unaccompanied children, dying on their way to Europe.
While the majority of these deaths occur in the sea when the overcrowded inflatable boats capsize, others are a result of torture and other forms of abuse committed against migrants by their smugglers and captors.