16 Nigerian women are safe after voodoo death threats and forced prostitution, police say

cfp nigeria benin trafficking ede_00003616
cfp nigeria benin trafficking ede_00003616

    JUST WATCHED

    Sold for sex on her journey to Europe

MUST WATCH

Sold for sex on her journey to Europe 02:25

Story highlights

  • Police arrested 11 members of an organized group operating across Europe
  • Thousands of women and girls from Nigeria have become victims of trafficking

(CNN)Sixteen Nigerian women are safe after they were threatened with death and tricked to work as prostitutes in return for passage to Spain, the European Union's law enforcement agency said Thursday.

Eleven people were arrested in Zaragoza, Spain, in connection with the trafficking plot, Europol said, adding that their criminal network operated mainly in Spain, Italy, Germany and Denmark.
The women reflect a recent wave of Nigerians who have headed to Europe from Benin City, where poverty and traditional witchcraft suffocate opportunity. The journey can be fraught for women and girls, who face a particular risk of exploitation, experts say.
    Main migration routes from Nigeria to Europe
    Promised a better life in Spain, the 16 women were moved by land from Nigeria to Libya, then to Italy by sea, and from there into Spain, Europol said.
    "Once on the Spanish territory they were handed over to a madam and forced into prostitution until they paid off their debt," the agency said.

    Voodoo threats leveled by traffickers

    The women also were pressured under voodoo threats to pledge to pay for their transport and not to report their exploiters to police, Europol said.
    "This method, used by criminal organizations with women from Western Africa, aims to control women under threat of death for them or their family members if they do not comply with that commitment," the agency said.
    In some cases, traffickers can control their victims using phone contact alone, Europol said.

    Women and girls at risk for exploitation

    Traders peddle their ware at a market in Benin City, Nigeria, which for decades has been tied to trafficking to Europe.
    The number of potential sex-trafficking victims arriving in Italy by sea has increased 600% since 2014, with the majority of victims arriving from Nigeria, a July report by the International Organization for Migration estimates.
    Eighty percent of all women and girls arriving from Nigeria to Europe are potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, the group estimates, noting that exploitation of younger girls has been on the rise.