Sex traffickers left thousands of women to starve during Italy lockdown | Italy | The Guardian
Thousands of Nigerian women forced into prostitution were left to starve by sex traffickers during the Covid-19 pandemic in Italy, the Guardian can reveal.
According to the UN’s International Office for Migration (IOM), more than 80% of the tens of thousands of Nigerian women who arrived in Italy from Libya in recent years were victims of highly organised sex trafficking gangs. The women are forced into prostitution to pay off debts of up to €40,000 (£36,000) and controlled through violence and fear of “juju” black magic rituals they are made to undergo before their journey to Europe.
According to testimonies from volunteers, social workers and NGOs, during the prolonged and strict three-month Covid-19 lockdown introduced by the Italian government, trafficking gangs abandoned women and their children, who were unable to leave their homes or work and were left without food or money to pay the rent. Given the illegal status of their jobs, they had no recourse to financial assistance or unemployment benefits.
“Sex traffickers had no interest in feeding or helping Nigerian women during the pandemic,” says Alberto Mossino, co-founder of Piam Onlus with his wife, Princess Okokon, a former victim of sex trafficking. The association helps abused and vulnerable women escape their traffickers in Asti, in the north-western region of Piedmont. “In the eyes of sex traffickers these women are subhuman, exploited to enrich their pimps, who treat them like ATMs. And when the ATM runs out of cash, they discard it and look for another one.”