Abstract “Stranded: The new trendsetters of the Nigerian human trafficking criminal networks for sexual purposes”

The current research was conducted under the Project BINIs-Best practices In tackling trafficking NIgerian Route, funded by the European Commission, under the call for proposals HOME/2015/AMIF/AG/THBX- Actions addressing trafficking in human beings. The project is lead by the association CISS (IT), an Italian NGO, based in Sicily; CRESM (IT) that is coordinating in Palermo the project Urban Solidarity Communities and hosts a SPRAR Shelter for refugees mainly arriving from Africa; MPDL (ES) that manages a Women’s Information Point and an Emergency Shelter and is directly working in the assistance of vulnerable migrants; HERZWerk (AT) works specifically with Nigerian women victims of sexual exploitation; HERZwerk is an Austrian association working directly with Nigerian human trafficking victims; Dortmunder Mitternachtsmission (DE) is a member of the German NGO Network against THB; IOM Country office-Finland (FI); PfC (MT) is a Maltese association with experience on the subject of human rights and human trafficking.

The Nigerian diaspora is one of the younger communities in Italy, arriving in Italy, mainly by the end of the 80s, without a shared historic past between the two countries or a common language. The trafficking flow of Nigerian women in Europe has been identified as being “one of the most persistent trafficking flows until 2014” (UNODC: 56, 2014). However, an exponential increase of Nigerian women entering into Europe has been noted in the last years, 434 in 2013; 5,500 in 2015; 11,009 in 2016 (IOM, 2017).

On the 28th March 2014, the Legislative Decree No. 24/2014[1] that transposes the  Directive 2011/36/EU[2] entered in force in Italy. The Decree envisages the adoption of the first national anti-trafficking action plan. Consequently, the First National Action Plan against Trafficking and Severe Exploitation (2016-2018)[3] was adopted by the Council of Ministers on 26 February 2016 and targeted the “4Ps” (prevention, protection, prosecution, partnership).

With the entering in force of the Law No. 67/2014 of 28 April 2014 that nullified the felony of illegal stay in the Italian territory and the implementation of the Law Decree No. 18/2014, 21 February 2014 that transposed Directive 2011/95/EU,[4] the Nigerian Criminal networks have started to profit from these laws in order to avoid the deportation of the victims during the asylum claim. Therefore, many Nigerian women that were within a process of an asylum claim have started to be exploited, while within the reception centres (Pascoal, 2017).

In 2017, IOM has flagged a total of 8,277 potential human trafficking victims, from which 6,599 have been conclusively identified as human trafficking victims. However, the exploitation of Nigerian asylum seekers has not only created a challenge to engage the victims in a protection path, but it has also jumbled the current National Referral Mechanism based on the Art. 18. Furthermore, since the majority of the victims presented an asylum claim, the Territorial Commissions have started to have difficulty in understanding this emerging, but not new, category of asylum seeker/human trafficking victims (Pascoal, 2017).

This research is mainly based on the application of 30 semi-structured interviews to secondary sources that are in contact with Nigerian potential victims of human trafficking. No specific requirements were applied in order to obtain the sample of professionals that were interviewed, besides their contact with the Nigerian human trafficking victims. The secondary sources included lawyers, prosecutors and police officers; practitioners from anti-trafficking associations, such as cultural mediators, social workers working with VoTs and volunteers of the street units;  etnopsychologists and psychologists specialized in victims of trafficking;  4) 5 sanitary professionals; practitioners working with non-accompanied minors. Besides the application of semi-structured interviews, the research was also complemented with a literature review and the analysis of the legal national framework regarding the human trafficking victims and asylum seekers.

This study comes to provide with a clearer framework of the situation of Nigerian victims in Italy, in a broader legal and political framework. This research aims at 1) pointing better identification indicators that are based on the new trends verified in the recent years, especially before the exploitation; 2) improve the protection of human trafficking victims, especially for those that have presented an asylum claim; 3) highlight potential gaps within the protection system of human trafficking victims; 4) identify and exchange best practices between the involved countries.

[1] For further information, please see:

[2] Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA

[3] For further information, please see:

[4] Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted

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