‘Migrants are more profitable than drugs’

Nigerian girls who are trafficked directly to madams in Naples and elsewhere are forced to do sex work to pay off large debts. Before they’ve even started work, they will owe around €60,000 (£53,000). A cut goes to the recruiter in Nigeria, a cut to the traffickers and smugglers who expedited the women’s journey, and a large portion goes to the Nigerian gang members, who must pay the Naples mafia, the Camorra, or other crime syndicates in whose territories the women will be forced to work. There are other incidentals, including room, board, clothing and rent for the space on the pavement from which they solicit sex. If we assume half of the estimated 11,000 Nigerian girls who came to Italy in 2016 generated €60,000 each through debt bondage for the madams’ gangs, the profits off those girls alone would top €300m (£264m), even after their travel costs are deducted.

Most migrants live in another former military residential development, now dilapidated and controlled by the Camorra, who charge rent to squatters and trafficked women. African migrants first started coming to the area in large numbers in the 1980s, to work in the tomato fields for low wages. The Africans were not welcome to integrate with the Italians and instead set up a peripheral society where they lived outside the law, often squatting in illegally built or unfinished buildings. Italian authorities did not pay much attention to them at the time, but they were not ignored by the Camorra.

By the 1990s, women started arriving in greater numbers. They were rarely hired for farm work, so many had no choice but to prostitute themselves. Many of those first prostitutes eventually became madams, controlled by Nigerian drug-smuggling gangs, who had to pay protection money to the Camorra to operate on their territory. When the gangs discovered there was a demand, madams recruited more women from Nigeria to the area. They started using traffickers to trick them into coming, eventually expanding the trade further north to Italy’s larger cities and into Europe.

Also see:

Guardian 19.01.2022: Italian police arrest alleged Black Axe Nigerian mafia members over trafficking:

Full title‘Migrants are more profitable than drugs’: how the mafia infiltrated Italy’s asylum system
PublisherGuardian 01.02.2018
Media typeArticle
Topics Migration Routes & Transport, Migrant Labour & Exploitation
Regions Europe

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