Investigations

Newsclick Nigeria Investigation: Tales, woes of Nigerian victims trapped in web of multibillion dollar global human trafficking business (II)

By Olaotan Falade

Olaotan Falade, Senior Editor, Newsclickng.com in this two-part investigative report spanning 60-days of travels within Nigeria and the sub-region chronicled tales, woes of Nigerian victims trapped in web of multi-billion dollar global human trafficking business.

This report was facilitated by Newsclick Foundation for Investigative Journalism (NFIJ).

Editor’s Note: We adopted pseudo names for victims interviewed in this investigation for protection.

Read part one of the investigation here

True life stories of survivours of human trafficking/illegal migration

Victims of human trafficking/illegal migration can be young children, teenagers, men and women. However, Newsclickng.com observes that one thing common to them all is the unforgettable trauma of the experience. In most cases, many of them do not live to share the horrible experiences after their lucky escape particularly for those trafficked.

However, the experiences shared by those interviewed by Newsclickng.com are one of renewed hope, vigour and optimism despite the unpalatable journeys of the past. Excerpts:

 

‘I travelled to Libya with hopes of crossing over to Europe’ 

When Tunde finished his Higher National Diploma (HND) and later the compulsory one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) all around ages 22-23 years, he felt life was good to him and would before age of 30 have achieved all his career and family ambitions. He hoped to get a job and settle down to business of fulfilling one after the other everything he had jotted down to achieve in the coming years.

However, that was not going to be the case for him as the job did not come for years. He made efforts, submitted CVs at virtually every known and unknown corporate human resources department but all to no avail. Age was fast ticking and he was almost giving up on his dreams. When his dream job did not materialise on time, Tunde took a shot at some casual jobs hoping some of the top shots there might notice his skills and offer to lift him up to the top echelon. But that did not happen after years of running morning and night shifts as a casual worker with less than N30,000 naira monthly take home.

He then decided to join the league of countless Nigerians searching for greener pastures in Europe albeit as an illegal migrant. Tunde went by road to Libya with hopes of taking the dangerous Mediterranean option to get into his desired destination. That still did not happen after spending close to eight years in Libya doing one form of casual job to the other. His family is expectant of his homecoming but Tunde rather than coming home moved to Benin Republic where he has been sojourning for two straight years now. He discreetly met with this reporter in Cotonou to open up on all that has happened to him in close to 10 years of leaving Nigeria for greener pastures.

“I felt life was good to me when I attempted JAMB once and got admitted to a federal polytechnic. Most of my friends then were either teaching or still attending JAMB classes. I graduated with good grades and participated in the one year compulsory service (National Youth Service Corps, NYSC) to fatherland. That was all there is to the good life I thought I was living. What is the essence of going to school if the certificate is going to be useless? I did everything for close to 10 years to get a job all to no avail. However, I still did not give up. I took up casual jobs running morning and night shifts with the hope that the bosses of the company I worked for will spot me out amongst the crowd of workers but that as well never happened”.

Tunde narrated further that it was when the job wasn’t coming and he couldn’t afford gathering money to move out of his father’s house where he shared a room apartment with two of his brothers that he decided to desperately seek greener pastures on a foreign soil.

“Before deciding to embark on this uncertain journey, I lived in a one room apartment in my father’s house. I knew the cost of travelling out of Nigeria to a choice country in either Europe or America is expensive and the chances of even succeeding at it is ultra slim. So I decided to take the Libyan route. The news we heard back home was that once you get to Libya, it will be easier migrating to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve heard and read gory stories of illegal immigrants losing their lives on the Mediterranean and I’ve also heard and spoken to those who succeeded at it. Let’s just say I was optimistic that all will be well. I have to give it a trial to know how it goes. However, when my eighth year in Libya didn’t yield what I wanted, I relocated to Benin Republic”.

On why he didn’t come home straight, Tunde said the expectations from families, friends and acquaintances are high especially that he has left home for close to a decade. He said if things pick up well from his Cotonou base, he’ll soon return home to settle down and start family life.

“I can’t just return home like that. What I’ve gathered so far will just varnish if I head home straight without making more money. That was why I decided to draw nearer home. It will be easy to move home from here because the feeling is now closer than it was in Libya. I also want to settle and start a family and I’ve vowed that it won’t be on a foreign land. If the dream of life in Europe is not yet a reality, I’ll try some other time but I’m never giving up on it,” he said.

 

‘I was lured with mouth watering offers to South Africa; ended up as sex slave in Mali’

Ireti like any other Nigerian child had beautiful dreams of rising to the top of her career. She hoped her parents would give her the needed financial support to actualize her dreams but that soon became a mirage as she would later find out. At just 20, she had developed a thick skin to weathering the storms of life. While ‘hustling’ her way to success, she met someone willing to ‘help’. Her time had come, she reckoned when she ‘found the clue’. A mouth-watering job awaiting her in South Africa where she would literally dig gold. The jinx had been broken.

Her mother too also fell for the ploy through scintillating pictures of likely places her beloved daughter was going to work in the rainbow country.

Imagine! Soon her beloved daughter would be repatriating money home in dollars.

And another scenario, her younger sibling would sooner join her in South Africa to multiply the haul.

But first things first – the usual preparation rituals, sourcing money for passport ticket, feeding allowance and other miscellaneous expenses.

And all this meant the poor family going to borrow and selling their properties to make up. Anyhow, all this was good as nothing in view of the finest expectations to come from the foreign land job.

But too soon all the dreams died. Firstly instead of a luxurious flight to South Africa, it turned a tortuous three-day road journey to land in Mali, a neighboring West African country and immediately into sex slavery.

In this no holds bared interview with Newsclickng.com, Ireti explained in details her travails as a trafficked victim in neighboring Mali.

“When we got to Mali, we were handed condoms as work tools on our very first day at work: a beer parlour with several cubicle-like rooms,” says the victim who named one Mustapha as the man who sold her as a sex slave in Mali.

The suspect, Mustapha is said to be well known in the business of luring underage girls from Nigeria into prostitution in other countries in West Africa.

The terrified victim, who preferred to speak in Yoruba, her native language, and Pidgin English, revealed all the awful details of how she and many young girls were deceived, taken away from Nigeria, and sold as sex slaves far away in Mali.

Journey to the Job

It seemed like an answered prayer whenever the victims meet Mustapha who talks them into believing they would effortlessly build castles by travelling out of Nigeria to South Africa to take up high paying jobs either as salesgirl, hotel attendants or female footballers.

Mustapha’s deals are always appearing so sweet that his victims feel it wouldn’t cost them a dime to embark on this life-changing journey to the ‘high-paying’ jobs abroad.

“It was around February 2016, my family couldn’t make ends meet and I was seriously looking for a job.

“My mom and dad are divorced and we the children have been struggling to cope with the meager proceeds mum gets from selling fruits.” She said, narrating her ordeal.

“So a friend of mine, Samuel, in Ado-Ekiti where I lived at the time, told me there is a guy looking for a female worker.

I later learnt that the person was looking for more than one person (three girls, I was told).

“I collected the employer’s number from Samuel and later called him [Mustapha]. He told us that some of us would work as salesgirls in a big supermarket in South Africa, while he assured others they would secure a football club where they could build a football career.

“Mustapha met my mum and assured her of all the good plans he had for us. After showing my mother several pictures of big supermarkets in South Africa where we would be taking up the jobs, he was able to convince her and she agreed with the travel plans.

We soon set out for the journey. But shortly, things started to go awry. Plans began to change. On getting to Lagos, we were all shocked when we realised that we would be traveling by road and not by flight as earlier promised.

They conveyed us in a 14-seater bus. The journey lasted three days after which we arrived in Mali.”

The victim said they survived the journey by buying drinks to keep their body and soul. “Some of us developed horrible sicknesses as we lacked access to good food for days, we were just drinking beverages and only had a major stop at Togo.”

The Job

“When we got to Mali, we were shocked when Mustapha started auctioning us to people [mostly ladies], at that point there was no turning back, our phones, identity cards, passports and other documents that we used to cross the borders were all seized,” the victim narrated.

“He sold me to one Madam Prisca who runs a beer parlour for N250,000. I joined other seven new girls at Madam Prisca’s place and when we asked what our job was about, we did not get clear brief.

To our dismay, Madam Prisca distributed ‘condoms’ to us and told us to go and take our bath saying our job will be to entice men who come to patronise the beer joint and we were told that we will be set free once we can earn them 1.5m CFA [Equivalent of 1,054,742.13 naira].”

Madam Prisca’s beer parlour was a hell of some sort as described by the victim. Her shop had several rooms attached to it, where men can select any girl of their choice just to ease themselves of tensions obviously after high consumption of alcohol.

At first, the girls [victims] resented the offer to become sex slaves but later humbled to oblige to the wishes of their lords after receiving severe torture, drug inducement and partaking in several rites conducted by their fetish priests.

“They are very diabolic, they will prepare a charm/potion for us and the moment we ate it we lost our consciousness. About eight of us were sharing a room.

“They scraped our hair, [pubic, underarm included] for their fetish cause. There is a particular priest that helps Madam Prisca slaughter, fowl, which will be prepared with other concoctions and we were all compelled to eat it.”

Recalling one of the very sordid days she learnt how deep the danger she was in, the victim said, “You dare not think about escape or do anything that negates their orders.

According to Ireti, there was a day Prisca’s priest claimed he saw a vision about two girls planning to escape – when the girls were singled out by the priest, they were beaten mercilessly, it was close to death.

“Here, death is not strange, there are so many who lost their lives while on this trip, some fell terribly ill and were ignored as bad-buy”.

The Escape

After working for over a year with Prisca, the victim said she was able to contribute about 1.1m CFA to her lord but was never at ease with the everyday danger related to the job.

She said she had several quiet prayers begging God for a saving grace but the time never came.

I was saying the same prayer one particular evening and I got the conviction to run away. I took my bible, left all the belongings I had at Prisca’s place and ran endlessly without looking back.

“I was scared they could still find me, and the punishment is grave. They have a way of catching those who attempt to escape.

“They do this with the help of their policemen, in some instances they lie to the policemen you have stolen their money, say, 2 million CFA and once you are caught there is little you can say to defend yourself because you have no papers or identity.

“So when they report you, the policemen will arrest you and you will probably be returned or jailed depending on the process and agreement reached.

“So most times, because you don’t have documents, the police will suspect you the more and not them,” Ireti narrated.

She said on escaping Madam Prisca’s place, she had to travel to Cote d’Ivoire, where she spent some months hibernating with people before returning to Nigeria.

‘I am never making effort to migrate illegally to Europe again’

37-year-old Yusuf left Nigeria for Libya in June 2017. Like many Nigerian migrants, Yusuf travelled through the vast and ungoverned Sahara desert with the aim of reaching Italy. But he never made it. Yusuf was arrested in Libya and imprisoned for over one year, during which time he suffered heavily. He was finally repatriated to Nigeria in January 2018 by IOM’s voluntary return programme.

Today, Yusuf has established a successful and flourishing furniture business in Nigeria and is in charge of four apprentices.

Yusuf said he will never travel to Europe again, “Initially I wanted to go to Europe to gain more work experience, make more money and come back to establish a big furniture business,” he said, “But today, as you can see, I have a flourishing furniture shop. Nothing will make me go to Europe again.”

Like many other migrants, Yusuf experienced multiple hardships on his journey to Europe.

“The journey from Nigeria to Libya through the desert is horrible. So many people died in the desert, including women and children. There were dead bodies littered everywhere in the desert. There was no water for us to drink and we had no choice but to share drinking water with camels and donkeys or die of exhaustion. Anybody who died along the way was thrown into the open desert,” he said.

Yusuf said he narrowly escaped death in the Mediterranean sea and suffered in a Libyan prison. Yusuf said his prayers to be with his wife and child saved him from the claws of death.

Yusuf spent over USD 1,300 on his failed journey to Europe which nearly cost him his life. He has a strong message for other Nigerians who are still planning to migrate irregularly to Europe and the US: “Anybody who has a genuine reason to travel to Europe should find legal ways to migrate. They should not attempt to cross the desert. I have gone and come back. It is only God, my wife’s prayer, and that of my parents and my child that saw me come back alive.”

Yusuf knows that he is one of the lucky ones. He said, “Some people who embarked on the journey died in the desert, others reached Libya and were killed. Some died in the sea after their boat capsized.”

Reflecting on his experience, he said, “In my entire lifetime, I will never try embarking on the desert journey again,” he told The Migrant Project.

 

Why we are seeking to exit Nigeria – Legal immigrant applicants

Newsclickng.com visited selected embassies to get views of those seeking to leave Nigeria legally and their encounters.

Visit to selected embassies in Nigeria

 

Newsclickng.com also interviewed applicants willing to legally exit Nigeria at the American and South African embassies (Abuja and Lagos) on why they are keen on doing so. Their responses are captured below:

American Embassy

When Newsclickng.com visited the American Embassy in Abuja and Consular office in Lagos, the sight was more or less that of refugees desperately seeking a better life outside of their war torn country. One is left to wonder if America and indeed anywhere they so wish to migrate to have the capacity to cater for such number of applicants even if their applications were successful.

One of the hopeful applicant who identified himself as Emeka boasted to having a high-paying job in one of the oil companies but can’t risk settling down in Nigeria.

“See, I just want to move out of this country. I am gainfully employed and can cater for my needs and that of my loved ones but that is not enough. The country is messed up and hopes of fixing it are not there. Even our president hardly stays in Nigeria. You remember he recently ran away on the disguise of a ‘medical checkup routine’ to the United Kingdom. Here is a man who promised in 2015 to fix the health sector and reduce medical tourism of government officials drastically. He is nearly end of his tenure and he travels like every other day So who am I to keep believing that all will be well when the man elected to fix things does not believe that all will be well? Are you not aware of the increased killings, kidnappings and violence perpetrated in virtually all the nooks and crannies of this country? Unlike before, these daredevil now perpetuate their nefarious activities in broad daylight. No one is safe. Not even the ruling class. For your information, I’m not putting my hope in this America Visa application alone. I’m also applying simultaneously in other embassies. I will flow with any of them that grants my visa. My children will never forgive me if I birth them in this hopeless country,” he said.

Aside from the seemingly young applicants, the older ones (with grey hair and aging looks to show) are also not left out. For some, their entire family deserve a better country to live in. Some heavily pregnant women also want a safer medical haven to deliver their precious babies. On this particular day of visit and as always, the embassy was filled with all sorts of applicants.

From my interrogations with them, it was obvious that the applicants were not willing to let go of their migration ambitions till they succeed at it. Many confessed to applying as much as five to ten times in different embassies. Aside this, I observed that the environment was overcrowded and not so convenient. However, the applicants seemed to care less of the operating environment and condition of the embassies. They wanted one thing – just a successful visa application!

“The interview process is rigorous. But you can’t expect less of a sane country that places premium priorities on her citizens. No right thinking country will just open its borders to all manner of people without verifying their sanity and crime records. More so, Nigerians are on the global alert as a result of the fraudulent activities of a few unscrupulous elements. But come to think of it, who will back out of the quest for a greener pasture judging from how soon successful applicants make it once they land in their choice country?. My dear I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t care even if this interview is conducted in the gutters. As long as the country I’m heading to is in good shape, I can endure the temporary suffering at their embassy here in Nigeria. I already told my wife and children before leaving home this morning that we won’t get the visa on a platter of gold. It would be stressful and almost impossible but we won’t give up till we are successful at it,” a man applying with his family told me.

“Our health facilities here are both faulty and unreliable. I am a retiree. I served Nigeria with my most productive years and I remember rejecting at various times mouth watering offers to travel abroad because I believe the development of Nigeria is incomplete without my quota. I have done that and my health is now failing me. I thought my country will be there for me as I was there for her but you know how funny things are in this country. Let me spare you the details because the media is awash with that already. My children have given me ultimatum to come meet them or I forget about them. They sometimes laugh at me for believing so much in this country. I think I’m beginning to laugh at myself too for doing that. My wife and I are going to receive the best of medical attention in a place where the value placed on human lives is second to none. I’m done with Nigeria. Thank you,” an hopeful septuagenarian applicant told me.

Visit to VFS Global in Lagos (handlers of South African visa)

“What exactly are we doing in this country when our lives are daily threatened by bandits who are now renowned for killing unquestioned? Are you not bothered by the several killings in Kaduna, Plateau Zamfara, Kogi, Taraba and other states? Even the president’s home state, Katsina is not spared.

What has the Nigerian government done about it? Who have so far been arrested? But people are buried in their countries on a daily basis just for being Nigerians? And you want me to be part of those people? That’s over my dead body!”

These were the exact words of Biodun Ademola as I questioned him and several others lined up eagerly on a queue to apply for South African Visa at VFS Global recently in Lagos.

I reminded Biodun that other countries had their security, economic among other challenges – and that South Africa, in particular, was  battling xenophobic attacks especially on Nigerians, he impatiently said:

“Yes I’ve heard and read of xenophobic attacks there but that has subsidized seriously now. Come to think of it, is it not even more justified to defend yourselves against strangers taking up your job and other means of livelihood than to lose your life to an animal in your country? A cow for that matter? If I perish in South Africa of xenophobic attacks, it’ll be more honourable than being hacked to death by a fellow Nigerian for being less valuable than a cow,” Biodun said unapologetically.

On the fateful day of visit, the number of applicants for both South Africa and Canada Visas were almost in their thousands. A further check by Newsclickng.com from the processing company, VFS Global showed that South Africa receives the highest number of applicants with over 230 applications daily.

VFS Global currently acts as the outsourced partner for the visa applications and processing of South Africa, Canada, Belgium, and fifteen other countries.

Applicants including students, artisans, family, etc. start moving in their numbers to the Lekki office as early as 6 am daily. They take numbers in order of arrival and would only be attended to by 8 am.

Amazed by the huge numbers of applicants for South Africa visa as against other countries, this reporter further asked a lady who appeared to be rough handled repeatedly by muscular guys queued behind her to jostle for a space ahead as the announcement was made by some security guards that the South African processing centre had received enough application for the day at just 10 am! This will mean a repetition of the whole process the following day. The lady was however determined not to give her space for anyone irrespective of the pressure.

“Please, I don’t think I can entertain any question now,” She said firmly as I approached her. Feeling determined, I pestered her further, ‘Don’t you think things are not this hard in Nigeria for you to go through this kind of stress just to visit another man’s land as a second class citizen”? I asked knowing well that a thunderous and emotional response will follow.

“What do you mean by that? Are you blind to the crazy things happening in this country? I know it’s pretty expensive and difficult to get UK or America Visa that’s why I decided to go for South Africa’s. From my researches, they have quality education and stable academic calendar, good road networks and a stable economy. What else am I looking for? I’ve thought this over and over and my mind is made up. Not even my parents can stop me from getting out of this frustrating place called Nigeria. I’m so done!,” she said sounding irreversible in her decision.

 

Edo no longer hotbed, now fifth trafficking state in Nigeria – Obaseki

Meanwhile, the Edo State Government has said the state is no longer the hotbed of human trafficking in Nigeria.

Wife of the governor of Edo State, Mrs Betsy Obaseki said the state has dropped from number one trafficking state in Nigeria to number five because of the various advocacy strategies the administration of her husband has embarked on since 2016 when he became governor of the state.

Mrs Obaseki stated this during the draws to mark the maiden edition of Betsy Obaseki Women Football Competition identifying sports as one of the areas the state government has engaged young people in the state.

She said if Edo state is able to get it right, Nigeria will get right and that was the focus of the administration of her husband fully supported by his deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu.

She said: “Those who identified Edo State as the heartbeat of Nigeria know the very reasons for that and they are very correct. I believe with the position we are in this country, if Edo gets it right, Nigeria will get it right.

“We have young people who are very active and those contributed to Edo state at a point assuming the number one position of human trafficking in Nigeria, but we are now number five, that means we have done five full circles of reversal of the trend. Nigeria needs Edo to be well.

“Because of the negatives of human trafficking, we decided that there was need to engage our young ones, to make our children happy and discourage them from the tortuous journey so this competition is one of those means.”

Corroborating his wife, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki in December 2021 revealed that his administration used job creation initiatives and entrepreneurship programmes to address illegal migration and human trafficking among youths in the state.

Obaseki, who spoke to journalists in Benin City, said his administration would sustain efforts at ensuring that Edo youths were adequately empowered to live life to the fullest.

The governor said his administration has made remarkable success in tackling human trafficking and illegal migration, noting that the government traced its root causes and addressed it.

According to him, before 2015, the image of Edo State was bad and synonymous with trafficking as Benin City was referred to as the capital city for prostitution.

“For every boat that capsized, there was one Edo person there and every Edo girl that tried to travel was a suspect. Edo had about 30,000 of its citizens in Libya trying to cross to Europe.”

“Our young people were in a hurry to leave the country and it became a problem for my administration in restoring the hope of Edo youths,” he noted.

The governor further stated lack of job increased the problem of human trafficking. “So, while campaigning, I did what most politicians would not do; I campaigned with job creation, promising to create 200,000 jobs. Five years running now, we have done well in terms of job creation for Edo people,” he said.

A top government official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Newsclickng.com that most of the data being circulated about Edo State topping the human trafficking chart in Nigeria are obsolete and should be reviewed.

“The administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki has done much to reverse the evil trend of trafficking in the state and its surprising that people are not talking about it. All hands have been on deck since he came on board and I can tell you that people are still using data obtained 20-30 years ago to judge today’s Edo State and that is not fair. Things have changed and they will continue to change for good”, the official said.

 

Our score card on curbing human trafficking, illegal migration – NAPTIP, NIS

Nigeria’s major agencies saddled with the responsibilities of checkmating activities of human traffickers and illegal migrants, NAPTIP and Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) however insist that quality oversight function and collaborations where and when necessary by officials of both agencies and other sister agencies have helped reduced illegal migrations and trafficking in persons.

According to the NAPTIP, recent data released by foreign governments showed a drastic reduction in human trafficking activities emanating from Nigeria.

“In Italy, the number of Nigerians going into Italy has dropped significantly, so we are told by the authorities. Likewise, Spain, France and so many other countries have dropped, and we believe that people are getting more aware.

“Back in the days, they (traffickers) had this oath-swearing ceremony before they shipped the children out of Nigeria. Now they have taken it out to the destination countries where the victims are stuck and cannot run away without a choice.

“You cannot sensitise the whole country at once because these criminals go into the rural communities where there is little or no access to the social media,” an official of the agency told Newsclickng.com.

As part of effort to curb the menace, the official said NAPTIP team recently met with the Ministry of Justice in Mali.

She said the Malian Justice Ministry called on NAPTIP to come up with an MoU that would provide a proper framework to end the trafficking and repatriate those already trafficked.

The NAPTIP official hoped that other countries tread same progressive path to significantly reduce the menace.

The NIS on its part said it recently opened a Personnel Training Resource Centre in Abuja  and promised replicating same in the 36 states of the federation.

The immediate past Comptroller-General of the Service, Mr Muhammad Babandede said that the centre was aimed at registering non-citizens, who were staying in the country for more than 90 days.

“It is intended for anybody who is not a citizen of Nigeria, who has entered our territory and stayed for a period exceeding 90 days.”

He said that the effort was also in line with immigration’s regulation which made it mandatory for non-Nigerians to register when they come into the country.

“This project will be sustained. The foreigners’ registration will be linked to the Migrant Information and Data Analysis System.

“It is a project which has been invested into by many European countries to make immigration safer,” he said.

 

States must urgently protect refugees fleeing Ukraine – Human trafficking experts

Meanwhile, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETAhas warned of the dangers of people fleeing the armed conflict in Ukraine falling victim to human trafficking and exploitation, amid the fastest-growing refugee flow in Europe since World War Two.

Around three million people have been forced to flee Ukraine in less than three weeks, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and onwards across Europe. An estimated 90% of them are women and children. The Council of Europe Secretary General has highlighted the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual violence as they try to escape conflict, and has pledged the Organisation’s support to Member States to take care of refugees arriving from Ukraine.

Front-line civil society organisations and journalists have sounded the alarm over suspected cases of human trafficking involving Ukrainian refugees. There are reports of traffickers targeting parentless children fleeing Ukraine, and many of such children are currently unaccounted for, following the hasty evacuation of orphanages and foster homes. In some countries, specialised anti-trafficking NGOs are disseminating leaflets to refugees, warning them of the risks of accepting transportation and accommodation from strangers, and informing them how to seek help and report suspicious cases to the existing national helplines for trafficking victims.

Helga Gayer, President of GRETA, said: “Public officials and civil society organisations in countries receiving Ukrainian refugees must be alerted to the risks of human trafficking and exploitation. Urgent steps must be taken to strengthen coordination at border crossings and reception facilities and to ensure the accurate registration of refugees and their access to necessary documentation, residence permits and essential services.”

“People fleeing war are physically and psychologically weakened, unfamiliar with their new surroundings and highly vulnerable to falling prey to criminals. Structures receiving refugees must ensure that they are informed of their rights, in a language they can understand, and provided with psychological and material support. The authorities must take steps to prevent fraudulent offers of transportation, accommodation and work, and strengthen safety protocols for unaccompanied children, linking them to national child protection systems,” she added.

 

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