The phenomenon of foreign women, who line the roadsides of Italy, has become a notorious fact of Italian life. These women work in sub-human conditions; they are sent out without any hope of regularizing their legal status and can be easily transferred into criminal networks.
Many are Africans working as prostitutes to send money home to their families.
For nearly twenty years the women of Benin City, a town in the state of Edo in the
south-central part of Nigeria, have been going to Italy to work in the sex trade and every year successful ones have been recruiting younger girls to follow them.
The Nigerian trafficking industry is fueled by the combination of widespread emigration aspirations and severely limited possibilities for migrating to Europe.
The term Trafficking of persons is restricted to instances where people are deceived, threatened, or coerced into situations of exploitation, including prostitution. This contrasts with Human smuggling, in which a migrant purchases services to circumvent immigration restrictions, but it is not a victim of deception or exploitation.
Most migrant women, including those who end up in the sex industry, have made a clear decision to leave home and take their chances overseas. They are headstrong and ambitious women who migrate in order to escape conflict, persecution, environmental degradation, natural disasters and other situations that affect their habitat and livelihood.
Ensuring a better future for one’s family in Nigeria is a principal motivation for emigration within and outside the trafficking networks. Working abroad is therefore often seen as the best strategy for escaping poverty. The success of many Italos, as these women are called, is evident in Edo. For many girls prostitution in Italy has become an entirely acceptable trade and the legend of their success makes the fight against sex traffickers all the more difficult.
One concern is that the anti-trafficking crusade is causing effects opposite to its objectives. What presents itself as a campaign to protect migrants from harm is actually making their efforts to flee home, to find work, to make the most of their lives in often difficult and unforgiving circumstances, much harder.