Film documenting the NBM’s involvement in human trafficking and the subsequent prostitution.
Subscribe to get access
Read more of this content when you subscribe today.
Anambra state Police Command has paraded thirty-four youths over cult related activities at Enugwu-Ukwu Special Anti-Cultism Squad Unit of the command.
Among the thirty-four suspects who aged between twenty to twenty-five, four were girls suspected to belong to White Angels confraternity.
The suspected cultists were arrested by the officers of the Police Special Anti-Cultism Squad from Ogbunike in Oyi Council area, and Awada in Idemili North LGA, respectively.
Exhibits recovered from the suspects included three live cartridges, expended cartridges, initiation drums, cult Regalia,two machetes, pump action gun, locally made single barrel pistol, among others.
During the parade exercise, while some of the suspects confessed to belong to various cult groups including Black Axe, Vikings, Ayeez, and Viper confraternities and pleaded for leniency, others denied membership of any of the secrete cults and pleaded for their release.
Parading the suspects, Anambra state Commissioner of Police, Mr John Abang represented by the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Haruna Mohammed warned youths against secret cult which he said the command has zero tolerance for, advising youths to channel their energy and talents into things that will be beneficial to them, their families, and the society at large.
Mr Abang revealed that the suspects were arrested from the 12th of this month, and assured that after investigation, the suspects will be prosecuted and afterwards imprisoned if convicted, to serve as a deterrent to others.
He however asked Ndi Anambra to be security conscious at all times and to report any suspicious person or illegal activities to a nearby police station for prompt action.
The Commissioner of Police also advised parents and guardians to always monitor the activities of their children and wards to save them from cultism and other criminal and illegal activities.
The Anambra state Police Command also paraded another suspect, Mr Gerald Chika a native of Enugu state, at the Police Headquarters in Amawbia who was arrested at Emordi market in Awka where he attempted to rob one of the marketers in the market, Mr Kenechukwu Okafor of his belongings.
“Cult Regalia” = Uhuru baseball cap.
Maybe Von, Tayo and Co need to find another fake name for their fake façade of a “humanitarian organisation” and start printing some new, less conspicuous, baseball caps to try slip under the radar.
They have further explaining to do also about why the Nigerian arm of their “humanitarian organisation” need shotguns and machetes?
If you wanted to learn about policing/crime would you rather be lectured on the subject by a high ranking police officer. Who after completing his criminology degree sat at a desk and just read about crime. Or by someone who’d been engaged on the streets in the fight against it for for many years?
If you attended a military college would you rather be taught about warfare by an academic who’d, again, only read about war in books or by a veteran who’d actively served in the theatres of battle?
Do you have an interest in understanding the major indicators of human trafficking?
Uche Tobias is the first to confess to people when asked he knows little about it. He just reads about it in books.
Much more fitting to teach about human trafficking would be those with a much deeper understanding in it. Perhaps those with a long standing history of been engaged in the fight against it.
Or perhaps even better still…. Those engaged in it?
The NBM are a criminal organisation who have one or two articles/papers that document they are involved, quite heavily, in this activity.
“There exists an organized crime group. In this case that group is the Neo Black Movement (NBM) / Black Axe (BA). Mr. Alika did not contest that the
NBM is an organized crime group…. evidence shows that the Neo Black Movement is synonymous with the Black Axe, they are one in the same…. They’re involved in drug trafficking, arms trafficking, racketeering, and killing is second nature”
“A Nigerian criminal network named Black Axe…. controlling an extensive network of prostitutes and ordering them ‘on demand’ from Nigeria”
“The Black Axe cult provides an illustrative case study on the idealistic origins of cults and their descent into criminality…. The group, also known as the Neo-Black Movement… was also involved in trafficking women and girls to Italy”
“Black Ax Confraternity…. developed into serious criminal organization… are associated, among other things with activities such as murder, trafficking in human beings”
“Police in Italy have arrested 20 members of a vicious Nigerian organised crime gang… The Black Axe gang is thought to be involved in a number of illegal activities… including prostitution, protection rackets, people smuggling”
Trafficking in human beings – Criminal networks “Aye (also called Neo black movement, or black Ax) are particularly involved in the sexual exploitation of Nigerian women in Europe”
“The Neo Black Movement (NBM)…. maintain that they do not have
connections to Black Axe, however is essentially just a different name that acts as a nominal cover for the Black Axe… involved in a multitude of organized crime ventures such as running prostitution rings, human trafficking”
“Another particularly brutal confraternity is named Black Axe or the Neo-Black Movement of Africa has also taken advantage of the Nigerian-Libyan-Sicilian route…. the traffickers have been targeting younger and younger children in rural areas in order to keep feeding the trade”
“Human traffickers make $150 billion a year in profit…. gangs like the Black Axe are running the whole prostitution pipeline, which brings trafficked women from Nigeria to Italy…. Black Axe/NBM operate on both ends of the trafficking route, but in different ways”
“These potential profits have attracted at least one criminal organizations, the Neo Black Movement (NBM), a Nigerian cultist group also called Black Axe movement, or Aiye…… involved in arsons, markets taxations, drug trafficking and human smuggling”
“cultist groups” (including Black Axe (Aye) and Supreme Eiye Confraternity) are involved in the trafficking process….. it is possible to establish the proximity of individuals involved in trafficking to members”
“Black Ax (the Black Ax in French or Ascia Nera in Italian, hence the title of the book, Ed) , an organization born at the University of Benin City in 1977, but registered in Nigeria under the name of Neo Black Movement….. engaged in kidnapping or buying young girls for placement in brothels in large cities”
“Black Axe or Neo Black Movement members are involved in drug trafficking, human smuggling, prostitution, fraud, money-laundering and murder in countries around the world.”
“Members of the Black Axe have been identified as human traffickers with members in Italy forcing women into prostitution. Black Axe members in Nigeria have also been discovered high jacking minibuses and public transportation and abducting victims.
“Black Axe has spread to 26 countries including Italy, where its recognized by authorities as the Nigerian mafia for running drugs ,human and sex trafficking networks.”
“Over the past two decades, the Black Axe has also built a lucrative business in human trafficking. Working alongside established cartels, Axemen herd Nigerians across the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea into Europe”
“Authorities in Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Malta conducted the international operation, which was directed at two major Nigerian mafia groups. Police accuse the gangs of people-trafficking, drug trafficking, extortion, and prostitution…. two main groups in Italy are the Supreme Eye and the Black Ax”
“he accuses Europe of being a large part of the problem behind human trafficking… Omoruan says it’s Europe that wants cheaper, younger prostitutes… As long as this demand persists, secret groups like Black Axe and others will continue to be successful and make lots of money”
Interpol: Online African Organized Crime from Surface to Dark Web (will download the PDF if you click)
“Black Axe Confraternity… The group is widely believed to be the same as the Neo Black Movement founded in 1977…. involved in prostitution, human trafficking”
Certainly overwhelming evidence that the NBM are (over) qualified to give such a lecture right?
But of course it’d be laughable to the point of been silly to suggest the NBM would actually give a lecture about human trafficking… despite been amongst the best qualified people in the whole world to understand what the major indicators of human trafficking are.
Yet this is exactly what they did……
A lecture entitled: understanding the major indicators of human trafficking.
Seemingly mostly to themselves.
Lots of black & yellow…. that’s what Uche would be inclined to suggest what a major indicator of human trafficking is.
We’ll note the reluctance of NBM Members here in the picture to wear their standard issue berets or baseball caps with ‘NBM’ boldly printed on the front.
Why is that?
This has already been discussed before. Tayo (pictured below 2nd from the left), the organiser of the event and Head of the NBM’s Spain Zone can explain:
The zone has been fully registered though not as NBM AFRICA but as UHURU FOUNDATION, this might sound strange but the underlying issues here is that NBM AFRICA is currently under investigation in Spain and as we speak some of our members are still been followed by the police to see the kind of activities we indulge. As we were advised by our lawyers, that UHURU FOUNDATION should be the reason for our gathering till the investigations are called off only then we can change our name to NBM AFRICA
Which makes perfect sense…. The Uhuru Foundation doing a lecture entitled “understanding the major indicators of human trafficking” is massively less ridiculous than the NBM holding the lecture. If we can erase our memory that Tayo has just explained that’s who they actually are.
Plus… If changing your name means the police wont turn up and raid the proceedings then it’s an added bonus!
A face above looks familiar? The chap in the top photo sat in the middle of the front row. It’s the same chap in the second photo who’s 2nd from the right. I swear I know him from somewhere!
Vo….. it’s not? It is!
It’s Barking and Dagenham Council’s Communications Manager rubbing shoulders with seriously dodgy individuals as usual. Von Edomi of the Uhuru Foundation London.
“Uhuru Foundation London”?
I’m not aware of any such organisation existing and seemingly it doesn’t (at least outside of this event)
So Barking and Dagenham Council’s Communications Manager has turned up and spoke at a lecture on human trafficking, organised by a group infamous for human trafficking (of which he’s a senior member), to a room full of the aforementioned cretins and he’s had to alter the name of the organisation he represents because that organisation are been watched by the police?
That seems to be the long and the short of it.
Following this revelation I certainly see and am understanding the major indicators of human trafficking much much better.
(Translated by Google)
by Neila Zannier – October 27, 2020
Eiye and Black Ax: two Nigerian brotherhoods born to regain control of Nigeria from the multinationals that invaded it in the 1960s, have become the two most powerful Nigerian mafias in Italy. Driven by the desire to have a positive impact on the socio-political fabric of Nigeria, in order to free themselves from neo-colonial domination, they now control the trafficking of people, prostitution and drugs on a transnational level.
The Supreme Eiye Confraternity (SEC) , also known as “Air Lords” states, on its Facebook page, that it was established in 1963 at the University of Ibadan in the State of Oyo, Nigeria. The purpose of their birth is “to keep African culture alive and to have a positive impact on the socio-political psyche of Nigeria to ensure the complete break from any form of colonial and / or imperial cultural domination”. The UNODC (UN Office On Drugs and Crime) describes the Iye as a “criminal group made up of members of an old secret society turned into a criminal association “.
Similarly, the Black Ax , also called the Neo Black Movement (NBM) began as a fraternity at the University of Benin on July 7, 1977. For the same reasons as Eiye, she believes that the Neo Black Man must begin to “create a better world where racism and Apartheid no longer exist ”. The Black Ax logo is a hatchet that breaks the chains from the wrists of a black man, a symbol of the chains that forced African slaves during colonialism.
The growth of the brotherhoods follows the history of the country. The hatred of neo-colonial control stems from the presence of multinational oil companies which, after the discovery of oil in 1953, have established themselves in Nigeria. These have monopolized the country’s economy, making it quickly dependent on oil profits and, consequently, creating a huge number of unemployed. The dissatisfaction of the population , already protagonist of an exponential demographic growth, broke out in 1983 when there was a military coup. Military leaders realize that brotherhoods are gaining powerand admire their organization. In fact, the brotherhoods have become real organized criminal groups. Both the Black Ax and the Eiye have a specific way of recruiting new members: it is necessary to be a man, to be introduced by a member of the organization, and entry “for life” into the fraternity includes spiritual rites of initiation. These intend to test the ability to suffer and inflict violence in the newcomer.
The markets for sex, drugs and weapons
In Italy, the Eiye is the first Nigerian cultist organization by number of affiliates, followed by the Black Ax. Their arrival can be traced back to the 1980s due to the increase in migrations from Nigeria to Europe and in conjunction with the changing routes of the cocaine trade to Europe and Asia. In the globalized economic system and with a capitalist and liberal tradition, the Nigerian mafias are real economic actors : they control the business of trafficking in human beings, sex slaves, drugs and weapons.
In the 2000s the presence of Nigerian women in the Italian prostitution rings was consolidated for three reasons: the rooting of the Nigerian mafia in the country, the increase in the organization of exploitation mechanisms and the increase in the demand for sex , especially during the economic crisis. . A crucial contradiction characterizes these two criminal organizations: they are driven by pan-Africanism, but they exploit both Nigerian women and men, as well as take advantage of the racism of European white supremacy. In fact, the system of exploitation of prostitution originates in agricultural fields in Southern Italy , where it is known that Nigerian workers are enslaved and easily recruited for drug trafficking, weapons or women.
The Black Ax and the Eiye are in a ‘ cult war ‘, a clan struggle that broke out in 2010 in conjunction with the elections in the state of Edo (where the Black Ax is native). The tensions present in the territory of origin have also reached Italy; the two groups clash for supremacy over the cities and thus control of illegal businesses. The clashes include armed robberies, kidnappings, mutilations, murders in order to prevail over the other clan.
Relations with the local mafia
Their modus operandi is similar to that of our local mafia, they respect a rigid top-down structure based in Nigeria – the “Head” with whom they always maintain close contacts – and a separate one for each country in which they are established. In Italy the Iye is based in Turin while the Black Ax in Verona and from there they control the operating cells present in the national territory; in Southern Italy the Iye is numerically more present in Palermo, while the Black Ax in Naples.
The investigations assessed a great affinity between the organizations and the Cosa Nostra mafia model . In the sentence issued for the Black Ax, as a mafia association, by the GUP of the Court of Palermo in May 2018 it is reported that “it has replicated the organization of a confederate state on a worldwide level . It is in fact endowed with statutes, legislative and executive authorities, judicial bodies and its own law enforcement agencies “.
Nigerian mafia organizations have crept into places less frequented by homegrown mafias, but when the Black Ax started taking over the drug business , controlled by the Camorra, its members immediately threatened the Nigerian pushers. After a violent clash in September 2008, where Camorra affiliates killed six African men, probably associated with the Black Ax, the agreement was not long in coming. If Black Ax had not stolen the Camorra’s clientele and paid the protection money, there would have been no more deaths, indeed they could have collaborated in the import and distribution of drugs. However, this created a drop in the profit of the Black Ax which decided to expand the business of trafficking in sex slaves. In fact, the circulation of profits in the organization happens in this way: the money obtained from sex slavery is invested in the drug business and in the development of other operating cells in the world.
The Eiye and the Black Ax are present throughout Europe, in particular they have been traced to Germany and Spain. In Barcelona, Eiye controls an international women’s market. In addition to trafficking in people, the Catalan police are investigating the illicit importation of fake passports, narcotics and stolen crude oil. The BBC reports that both Eyie and Black Ax members operate in Europe, Africa (North, East and West), South and North America and Asia. Yet their transnational presence is little known and underestimated .
To be able to counter such a large market it is necessary to outline the dynamics of these criminal organizations. In addition, the knowledge of the geopolitics of Nigeria would facilitate the overall analysis of the phenomenon of the Nigerian mafia in Italy as it would allow us to understand effective ways to prevent its advancement. How is it possible that ‘simple’ brotherhoods have become the most powerful Nigerian mafias present on Italian territory? To answer this question it is necessary to study in depth the socio-political situation of the country and at the global level the development of both illegal markets and migration and therefore their transnational expansion. This would be possible in the case of international cooperation, especially by promoting a synergy between Nigeria and Italy.
(Translated from Italian)
The trafficking of Nigerian women in Italy is a phenomenon that has only begun to receive attention since 2015, due to the recorded increase in sex slaves of Nigerian origin: from 1,454 in 2014 to 11,009 in 2016. The International Organization of Migration estimates that in Italy 80% of women from Nigeria are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Most of these come from Benin City, in the state of Edo. Benin City, in southern Nigeria is the same city where the Black Ax originated, the Nigerian criminal organization that controls the trafficking of sex slaves as far as Italy.
The Black Ax recruits women through four different methodologies: in the first case the Black Ax gives a loan to the woman’s family, but when they are unable to repay the money, the woman is taken away. In the second case, the women are kidnapped or handed over directly by the family. In the third case, it is the women themselves who get in direct contact with the mafia. In the latter case, they are recruited from their social accounts.
Before leaving for Italy, the women are forced to undergo a traditional witchcraft called juju . This practice creates an inseparable bond with the Black Ax; The juju is the way to create a debt of up to 80,000 Euros which obliges women to become sex slaves until the heat- with the Mafia. The juju also has a strong psychological power that ensures that this happens; if the covenant is not respected a spirit could rage inside their body until they die, and if they themselves die or run away, their families will be killed.
The journey from Nigeria to Italy is led by several collaborators of the Black Ax , the passeurs : traffickers of bodies. The first stop is in Agadez , Niger. On the way between Benin City and Agadez, women who are not left to die in the desert are used to bribe the police and ensure quick passage. Once in Agadez they are taken to the slave market, where there are 20,000 to 25,000 migrants every month, all from West Africa to Europe. The surviving women say that their ‘stamina’ was tested here; they were raped repeatedly. In the concentration camps in Libya, Black Ax members work for free for Libyans in exchange for more freedom in smuggling. Furthermore, their role is to make women, through sexual exploitation, earn money to cross the Mediterranean.
Those who manage to reach the Italian coasts become part of the inadequate system of CARA and CAS, which after the Security Decree can only welcome holders of international protection (therefore asylum and subsidiary) and unaccompanied minors, no longer asylum seekers waiting of the decision. Without an adequate protection system, women are very often not identified as victims of trafficking. Easily recruitable instead by the Madams , a name indicated to refer to women traffickers who deal directly with sex slaves, their contacts and the money earned. Another figure of the Black Ax is the Kapoit has the role of tending women away from possible anti-trafficking social organizations and moving women from one place to another so as to create instability and dependence, but also ensuring a continuous variety for the Italian clientele. If there weren’t such a high demand for sex, the sex slave business would not have profiled 2 billion euros a year: the estimated earnings of the Black Ax in Italy alone (globally the annual profit of sex slave traffickers is 99 billion dollars).
The legal framework on human trafficking is closely linked to sexual slavery as 90% of victims of trafficking globally are sexually exploited. Internationally the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking of Persons , also known as Palermo Protocol , established in 2000, presents the most accepted definition of human trafficking and also includes for the first time the role of international criminal organizations . Both are decisive factors in the proliferation and profitability of the trafficking industry and have an inevitable influence in the top-down approach to government policies at the national level.
Given the spread of the phenomenon and the number of actors involved, it is necessary to set up a control and prevention system to avoid the proliferation of trafficking with the aim of completely eradicating it. To achieve this, it is necessary to understand the oppressive structures at play and their role in trafficking, such as that of criminal organizations such as the Black Ax.
You reside in a corrupt hell hole ran by cultists and want out…
In order to achieve that would you:
a) sell everything you own and give the money to an NBM member on the promise of a new life in Europe or
b) travel through the blistering heat of the Sahara Desert with limited water on the back of an open top truck or
c) potter about in the war ravaged country of Libya at high risk of kidnapping (needing to call home and ask for more money when this happens) or
d) float aimlessly in a crappy boat on the Mediterranean Sea or
e) spend a couple of years in a detention camp in Malta or
f) spend a couple of years in a detention camp in Italy or
g) be at the mercy of local crime gangs and mafias upon arrival in Europe
To reach the promised land of Europe in the hope of a new life the answer needs to be “yes” to all of the above.
Unless of course you’re an NBM member and your friends who have already infiltrated key positions in Europe can write you invitation letters, references or provide you false documents. In which case you can lay back and enjoy your ride in an aircraft paid for with stolen credit cards and consume vast amounts of Champagne and Hennessey on your arrival.
Enjoying the money of others willing to pay you dearly to undertake/attempt the journey described above through hell.
One such individual (not an NBM member but in the orbit of them… and probably having paid them for the pleasure) shared an image of that journey through hell. The leg through the desert to reach Libya.
One rule for the Axemen and one rule for you.
“Trafficking networks and gangs continued to grow more sophisticated, organized, and violent, particularly Nigerian gangs linked to the Black Axe, Supreme Viking Confraternity, and the Eiye syndicate”
ITALY: Tier 2
The Government of Italy does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Italy remained on Tier 2. These efforts included identifying and assisting more victims, increased funding for victim care and training for law enforcement, and cooperation with and assistance to international law enforcement to address transnational trafficking crimes. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government reported fewer trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions compared to the prior reporting period and did not report sentencing data. The government remained without a national action plan and did not consistently implement its national victim identification and referral mechanism.
Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking cases and convict and sentence traffickers with adequate sentences. • Increase proactive victim identification by improving and consistently implementing the national identification referral mechanism across the country, including for vulnerable children. • Consistently assess trafficking risks and provide legal protections to all potential victims prior to any forced returns or expulsions, including where such persons have entered Italian territorial waters, and during operations assisted by the Italian government in Libyan search and rescue areas. • Continue to increase migrant worker protections by consistently enforcing strong regulations and oversight of labor recruitment agencies and labor brokers, including investigating and prosecuting labor traffickers. • Implement license control and accreditation process for massage parlors, labor brokers, and labor recruitment agencies. • Continue to increase international cooperation with source and transit countries, especially Nigeria, Tunisia, and Libya, on information sharing and countering trafficking rings. • Improve security standards in and around reception centers to limit contact between traffickers and victims or potential victims. • Intensify efforts to effectively screen for labor trafficking victims through increased inspections and improved training of labor inspectors to spot trafficking indicators and refer victim for services. • Strengthen international law enforcement cooperation to prevent and investigate child sex tourism. • Consolidate data among different ministries, and make public a database on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions, including sentencing data.
The government made mixed law enforcement efforts. The 2003 Measures Against Trafficking in Persons law criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of eight to 20 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Article 600 of the penal code criminalized placing or holding a person in slavery or servitude and prescribed the same penalties. In 2019, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) reported investigating 135 persons for trafficking, a decrease compared to 314 in 2018 and 482 in 2017, reported from both the MOI and Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The MOI also reported investigating and arresting 117 persons under Article 600 for slavery, compared to 417 in 2018 and 513 in 2017, as reported by the MOJ. In one notable case in April 2019, the police arrested 11 suspected traffickers for the sex trafficking of Nigerian women through debt-based coercion; the suspected traffickers fraudulently entered migration centers to procure women who had incurred debts for their journey to Europe. Although only partial data was available from the MOJ, the government reported prosecuting 80 suspects under the trafficking law in 2019, a decrease compared to 139 in 2018. The government also reported prosecuting 122 suspects under Article 600 and Article 602 in 2019 and 122 suspects in 2018. In 2019, though only partial data was available from trial courts, the government reported convicting 42 traffickers under the trafficking law, compared to 46 in 2018 from both trial and appellate courts. Trial courts also reported convicting 48 traffickers under Article 600 and Article 602 in 2019, compared to 95 convictions in 2018 from both trial and appellate courts. While the government did not report sentencing data, the media reported one notable case in December 2019, where the courts convicted a Romanian trafficker for multiple crimes, including trafficking in human beings, and sentenced the trafficker to 20 years’ imprisonment.
The government did not maintain a consolidated database on investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and sentencing of traffickers, or of their victims, a deficiency noted by GRETA. Specialized anti-mafia units of prosecutors and judiciary police handled trafficking prosecutions. Whenever investigators found clear evidence of trafficking, they referred the case to an anti-mafia unit, which relaunched the investigation and consequently extended the timeframe for prosecution and trial. To avoid this delay, non-specialized investigators and prosecutors sometimes charged perpetrators with crimes other than trafficking. Anti-mafia units continued to prioritize investigations of criminal networks over individual cases, citing limits on available resources. Lack of a sufficient number of interpreters, especially for West African dialects, continued to impede law enforcement arrests and investigations, as well as diminish the benefits of investigators’ wiretapping capability. NGOs cited continued challenges in adapting to changing dynamics and methods of traffickers and noted improved coordination on anti-trafficking strategies between national government ministries, international organizations, and ground-level NGOs, as well as increased cooperation by local police and prosecutors. During the reporting period, high-level officials met with representatives from Niger, Tunisia, and Ivory Coast, but Italian prosecutors and police continued to cite insufficient cooperation in investigations from officials in source and transit countries; with many cases being transnational, this hindered prosecutions and convictions.
Compared with no data reported in 2018, law enforcement training increased. Law enforcement agencies received training on victim identification and investigation of trafficking crimes within their standard curriculum. In 2019, the police conducted six training programs for 193 border police officers and 17 training programs for 510 other police officers on victim identification and protection. The police academy organized anti-trafficking trainings for 60 of its agents, and in collaboration with two international organizations, the MOI provided anti-trafficking training for an unknown number of police and members of asylum review committees. In 2019, the government provided funding to an international organization for an anti-trafficking project in Nigeria that focused on improving international judicial cooperation between Italy and Nigeria. The government reported increasing coordination with Nigerian law enforcement by establishing a working group focused on Nigerian organized crime to facilitate the collection and dissemination of trafficking information between prosecutors, police, international organizations, and NGOs. For the first time, prosecutors received testimonies from members of Nigerian organized crime networks, which was critical in dismantling the networks. Trafficking networks and gangs continued to grow more sophisticated, organized, and violent, particularly Nigerian gangs linked to the Black Axe, Supreme Viking Confraternity, and the Eiye syndicate. A two-year program based in Egypt that trained law enforcement officials from 22 African countries on immigration and border control, including combating human trafficking, continued during the reporting period. There were no investigations or prosecutions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.
The government increased protection efforts, but proactive victim identification remained a challenge, and government policies significantly limiting the availability of humanitarian protections for certain asylum-seekers remained in force. The government increased trafficking victim identification during the reporting period by identifying 657 new victims in 2019, compared to 597 in 2018. The Department of Equal Opportunity (DEO), which coordinates protection efforts, reported government-supported NGOs assisted 1,877 trafficking victims in 2019, also an increase compared to 1,373 victims assisted in 2018. Of all the new trafficking victims NGOs assisted, 50 percent were victims of sex trafficking or exploitation, 11 percent victims of labor trafficking or exploitation, and the remainder were potential victims of unidentified forms of exploitation. Seventy-two percent of victims identified in 2019 were Nigerian, four percent were Romanian, and three percent were Ivorian. Of victims referred to assistance programs, 83 percent were female, 16 percent male, one percent transgender, and three percent were children. The government did not report identifying any Italian national victims or children. Several entities referred victims to care, including migration centers and a committee on asylum requests, which referred 10 and 25 percent, respectively, of victims. Regional committees utilized national guidelines for asylum-seekers to adjudicate asylum applications to identify trafficking victims among applicants. However, while the government had a formal referral mechanism, it was unevenly implemented during the reporting period. NGOs and the DEO recognized inconsistencies in the efficiency and effectiveness of the current referral process between regions and found that quality standards were lower in the south. During the reporting period, at least six local MOI offices and six local asylum committees signed an agreement with local NGOs to help improve victim identification and assistance. NGOs reported that gaps in authorities’ proactive victim identification efforts persisted during the reporting period. To reduce the flow of refugees and migrants from Libya, Italy continued training operations with and assistance to the Libyan Coast Guard, as did other EU member states. However, many NGOs criticized this coordinated effort because it often resulted in the occupants of vessels rescued in the Libyan search and rescue area being brought back to Libyan shores; NGOs cited severe security and human rights conditions inside Libya and Libyan detention centers and a heightened risk of trafficking for migrants forced to remain in Libya. During the reporting period, the government continued to delay NGO humanitarian ships carrying refugees and migrants from Libyan search and rescue waters from docking at Italian ports, pending relocation agreements with other EU member states. The government funded four voluntary repatriation programs to source countries and provided support for similar repatriations by international organizations from Libya.
NGOs coordinated with law enforcement and immigration officials at both arrival points and longer-term reception centers. The government observed standard UNHCR procedures to screen for trafficking victims among asylum-seekers, although NGOs asserted authorities did not properly identify many of the victims on arrival, instead classifying victims as asylum-seekers or undocumented immigrants subject to deportation. NGOs continued to stress the need for longer time periods for screening of refugees and migrants at arrival ports to more accurately ascertain victim status, but they acknowledged conditions were not conducive to a stay there beyond one or two days. Italian criminal law lacked a provision specifically prohibiting punishment of trafficking victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, but, during the reporting period, there were no reports of judges convicting trafficking victims forced to commit such crimes. Current law required proof of exploitation in a criminal action against the perpetrator, which left victims and potential victims at risk of prosecution and conviction when a court did not first convict the perpetrators. NGOs, the EU, and the Catholic Church projected that the government’s September 2018 decree, which remained in force through the reporting period, tightening the availability of humanitarian protections for certain asylum-seekers could result in increased trafficking risks for irregular migrants already residing in Italy. However, the government drafted legislation to partially restore some protections, which is currently with the Council of Ministers. Although persons already officially recognized as trafficking victims remained in a protected category, NGOs reported that many of these irregular migrants were either victims or potential victims, with most at risk of labor trafficking. International organizations continued to assert most centers remained under-equipped to fully address the unique needs of trafficking victims. The government often housed victims and potential victims with irregular migrants, and such housing lacked adequate security against traffickers inside and outside the centers seeking to recruit victims or remove those already under their control.
The government cooperated with NGOs and international organizations to provide shelter and services to victims. In 2018, the government allotted €24 million ($26.97 million) to trafficking victim assistance programs implemented by NGOs for a 15-month period; in 2019, the government allotted the same amount of money, and awarded and funded 26 projects. This compared to €22.5 million ($25.28 million) in 2017. With co-funding from an international organization, in 2019 the MOI supported a program to provide victims of labor exploitation, including labor trafficking, with shelter and legal services. Local governments provided additional funds to victim assistance programs, although the government did not report amounts. Given the breadth of potential beneficiaries, the government did not allocate sufficient funds to accommodate needs. NGOs reported inconsistent quality standards of assistance programs across regions. The law allowed for an initial three to six months of government assistance to all trafficking victims. After initial assistance, foreign victims were eligible to obtain temporary residency and work permits and had a path to permanent residency; additionally, foreign victims were eligible for six months of shelter benefits, renewable for an additional six months if the victim obtained a job or enrolled in a training program. The government granted 155 residence permits to victims in 2019 under Article 18, a decline from 270 in 2018 and 418 in 2017. Of victims granted a residence permit, 19 were identified by police and 39 percent were male. According to NGOs and pro bono lawyers, many victims applied for asylum upon arrival rather than protection as a victim of trafficking, either through pressure from their trafficker or believing that asylum status afforded greater freedoms, more immediate access to employment and services, and long-term residency. In 2019, the government approved only one percent of applications for permits for humanitarian reasons, significantly limiting humanitarian protection and potentially increasing vulnerability to trafficking. Availability of interpretation services for lesser-known African dialects, with victims coming from as many as 15 different language groups, remained a significant challenge. Trustworthy interpreters were also difficult to secure, as reportedly many interpreters came from the same communities as the accused traffickers.
GRETA recommended establishing a separate national referral mechanism specifically for children that took into account the specialized needs of children, but the government did not make progress on this recommendation during the reporting period. Children represented nearly thirteen percent of all victims receiving assistance; many were boys forced to beg or commit robbery. NGOs estimated there were several thousand minors in Italy who were victims of sex trafficking in 2019. Many unaccompanied Nigerian minor victims misrepresented their age to gain placement in an adult reception center, giving them greater freedom to leave the center unnoticed with their trafficker. NGOs, however, welcomed increased scrutiny by authorities of these age claims, and authorities more often sent victims into child protection if unable to confirm adult age status. Foreign child victims automatically received a residence permit until age 18 and accommodations in a general children’s center or a designated center for trafficking victims who were also asylum-seekers. Children received counseling and enrolled in public schools with the support of mentors. However, a significant percent of unaccompanied children chose to leave the centers voluntarily, which greatly increased their risk of trafficking.
The government did not require victims to cooperate with law enforcement to obtain assistance and a residence permit, although NGOs and international organizations reported authorities did not consistently implement this policy and sometimes gave preference to those who cooperated. The government also offered a single payment of €1,500 ($1,690) to victims, although GRETA and NGOs noted the application procedure was overly complex and the amount insufficient. GRETA further recommended the government increase the use of existing legal remedies to provide restitution to victims and more proactively seize assets and pursue forfeiture against perpetrators. The government did not award restitution to any trafficking victims during the reporting period. NGOs, prosecutors, and local officials praised the continued contribution of trained cultural mediators hired by the government or provided by government-funded NGOs, for their skill in communicating with refugees, migrants, and victims.
The government maintained prevention efforts. The DEO, as coordinator of the interagency steering committee on trafficking, was responsible for drafting the national anti-trafficking action plan, coordinating programs for prevention and victim assistance, and submitting a biannual anti-trafficking report. In 2019, the DEO selected 21 trafficking projects, one for each region in Italy, focused on preventing the trafficking of unaccompanied minors and victims of labor exploitation. The government had not completed its updated plan for 2019-2021. However, the government formed an interagency technical committee, including NGOs, to develop the plan. The government remained without a national rapporteur. The government launched a national campaign to raise awareness of its national hotline for trafficking victims. Local authorities and NGOs continued to distribute brochures, posters, bumper stickers, and media advertisements providing information on victim assistance. The government continued to participate in an awareness program, partially funded by the government, across the Horn of Africa and West Africa to inform potential migrants of the risks of trafficking.
The interagency working group to address labor exploitation, with a special focus on the agricultural sector and illicit labor brokers, presented an €84 million ($94.38 million) three-year plan, but did not report other concrete outcomes. With co-funding from an international organization, the Ministry of Labor provided €23 million ($25.84 million) for initiatives aimed at preventing and fighting labor exploitation and illegal employment, and providing migrant workers vocational training. The Ministry of Agricultural adopted an ethical code pertaining to the supply chain for tomatoes, but did not report concrete outcomes as a result. Fraudulent labor recruitment and passport retention remained concerns during the reporting period. Experts estimated that 150,000 to 180,000 agricultural workers, especially seasonal workers, were at risk of labor trafficking in Italy. Employers in the agricultural sector sometimes submitted falsified forms pertaining to their workers, which impeded labor inspections and the potential identification of trafficking victims. Though illegal, employers or labor recruiters sometimes charged a placement fee to employees, which increased their risk of trafficking. There was a lack of oversight and regulation on massage parlors, which remained places of high concern for sex trafficking. In 2019, the government reported inspecting 128,376 sites, including 5,950 agricultural sites. This compared to the inspection of 116,846 sites in 2018 and 160,347 in 2017, including 7,146 agricultural sites in 2018 and 7,265 in 2017. In 2018, the government identified more than 33,800 unregistered workers and, in 2017, it identified 48,000. The government did not report the extent to which it screened or identified potential trafficking cases during its inspections. In 2019, the government significantly increased efforts to investigate illicit labor brokers for illicit labor mediation by investigating 917 suspects in 2019, compared to 580 in 2018, a 58 percent increase. While illicit labor mediation does not meet the threshold for labor trafficking, increased efforts reduced the demand for forced labor. However, the government did not effectively regulate labor recruitment agencies or illicit labor brokers and did not report investigating or prosecuting any agencies for labor trafficking, including for fraudulent labor recruitment. GRETA recommended the government intensify efforts to more effectively screen for trafficking victims through increased labor inspections, expanded training of inspectors, and in monitoring of recruitment practices including in agriculture, domestic labor, hospitality, and food service.
The government reported receiving 3,711 calls to the DEO’s hotline for victims of trafficking in 2019; this compared to 3,802 calls in 2018. Of new victims referred to care in 2019, 11 percent were referred by the hotline. There was no coordinated national government effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex. Although concerns remained during the reporting period, including at least one report of an Italian citizen engaging in child sex tourism abroad, the government did not report investigating any suspects and did not make efforts to reduce the demand for child sex tourism by Italian citizens.
As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit foreign, and to a lesser degree domestic, victims in Italy. Victims originate primarily from Nigeria and other African countries, China, Romania, and other Eastern European countries, and include ethnic Roma. Traffickers, often part of Chinese criminal networks, exploit Chinese women in sex trafficking in apartments, beauty centers, clubs, and massage parlors. Massage parlors are sometimes used as fronts for the purchase of commercial sex, raising concerns about sex trafficking. Of an estimated 40,000 to 45,000 individuals involved in commercial sex on the streets, NGOs reported approximately 60 percent (or 24,000 to 27,000) are trafficking victims or at risk of trafficking and between five and eight percent are minors (or approximately 2,000 to 3,200 of 40,000). The majority of sex trafficking victims are from Nigeria, although more recently their numbers have decreased; however, the government and civil society maintain that Nigerian women and unaccompanied minors remain extremely vulnerable to trafficking because of the continued operation of several organized Nigerian trafficking networks. Several Nigerian trafficking networks have expanded operations across Italy and reportedly receive protection from Italian crime syndicates. International organizations estimated up to 75 percent of the Nigerian women and unaccompanied children who arrived in 2018 were trafficking victims. Traffickers subject Nigerian women and girls to sex trafficking through debt-based coercion and voodoo rituals. Authorities report traffickers encourage Nigerian victims to claim asylum to obtain legal residency and facilitate their continued exploitation. Traffickers sometimes exploit migrant women in sex trafficking in and around migration centers. Italian citizens will sometimes engage in child sex tourism abroad. Traffickers frequently target unaccompanied children, who are especially vulnerable to trafficking; children are exploited in child sex trafficking, forced to commit crimes or beg, and forced to work in shops, bars, restaurants, and bakeries. Ethnic Roma children are at risk for trafficking, including forced begging and child sex trafficking. According to authorities, the number of unaccompanied minors has steadily decreased; in 2019, 1,680 unaccompanied children arrived, compared to 3,534 in 2018, 15,731 in 2017, and 25,846 in 2016.
Labor traffickers operate in agriculture, predominantly in southern Italy, construction, household labor, hospitality, and restaurants. The North Korean government may have forced North Koreans working in Italy to work; however, by January 2020, the government reportedly secured the departure of all remaining North Korean workers. Traffickers use fraudulent recruitment, passport retention, as well as debt-based coercion to control trafficking victims; traffickers will also extort payments from the victim’s family in the source country. Italy has an estimated 1.5 million unregistered workers and 3.7 million irregular workers who are at risk for labor trafficking. Specifically for the agricultural sector, experts estimated that 150,000 to 180,000 workers, particularly seasonal workers, are at risk for forced labor in Italy. Employers in the agricultural sector will sometimes submit falsified forms pertaining to their workers, which impedes labor inspections and the potential identification of trafficking victims. Italy has approximately 600,000 irregular migrants, many of whom are at risk for trafficking, especially due to government restrictions on humanitarian protection and decreased support for migrants, which took effect in 2018. The rate of arriving refugees and migrants dropped precipitously in 2018 and 2019, due in part to government policy tightening the intake of irregular migrants and the government’s assistance to the Libyan Coast Guard. Italy received 23,370 irregular arrivals by sea in 2018 and 11,471 in 2019, many through Libya, where victims reported experiencing extortion, torture, and rape by militias or traffickers while awaiting passage to Italy. In 2017, government officials, including intelligence officials, met with a notorious alleged human trafficker to discuss controls on refugee and migrant flows from Libya, where the alleged trafficker requested funds from Italian authorities to manage the reception of migrants in Libya. Irregular migrants that arrived by sea mostly originate from Tunisia, Pakistan, and the Ivory Coast. Approximately 5,000 refugees and irregular migrants arrived by land, mostly from Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In 2019, of the roughly 31,000 persons requesting asylum, authorities estimate up to 30 percent were at risk for sex trafficking or forced labor while waiting for adjudication of their petitions. Approved permits for humanitarian reasons dropped to one percent of applications due to a decree, implemented in 2018, significantly limiting humanitarian protection; this may increase vulnerability to trafficking. Traffickers target migrant centers to recruit and later exploit asylum-seekers, sometimes claiming to be family members to gain access to the centers. Asylum-seekers may legally work beginning two months after filing their applications, although many seek illegal employment immediately in informal sectors, increasing their risk for trafficking. Many also attempt passage to other European countries; however, under the European Commission’s Dublin Regulation, countries have six months to repatriate victims to the EU country of their arrival, but if they fail to transfer them in due time should accept their asylum claim. This regulation likely increased the number of asylum-seekers or trafficking victims forced to remain in Italy or return to Italy from another country.
(Translated From Italian)
Among the “imported” mafias in our region there is one that is still quite mysterious and obscure today, the “Nigerian mafia” .
As Federica Cabras wrote in 2014, Nigerian organized crime cannot have “… a single definition …” , as it “… constitutes a system rather than a single structure, composed of cells of different criminal caliber organized within them by a vertical structure capable, at the same time, of acting in isolation as components of a reticular structure “ .
Definitely not easy to understand, but let’s try to explain it in simple words: this mafia is not a phenomenon that can be defined as a single structure, on the “mala del Brenta” style of which we have already spoken, which despite being a federation of gangs still had a minimal centralization, at least in the figure of Felice Maniero . The Nigerian mafia is made up of various groups and individuals capable of affiliating and dissolving even after having completed a single criminal job, without centralization or a defined hierarchy of roles.
But the system does not stop there: there are, within it, structures defined as “Cults” , originally student associations of Nigerian universities that have become real criminal clans with their own initiation rites, their own hierarchy, their own structure.
These Cults have become known in Italy with their own names, in particular the “Black Ax” (Black Ax) , which is often used loosely as a synonym of the same “Nigerian mafia”.
Such groups at home would, however, be connected to much larger and more structured “criminal enterprises” , authentic holding companies : these supposed links have given rise to some hypotheses that would see the various Cults as nothing more than branches of a single organization, managed by a single top . It is not a certainty but a doubt, which was exposed in November 2019 by the current national anti-mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho , who recalled how even for the ‘Ndrangheta it was only in 2010 that a level of coordination higher than all the gangs.
The Nigerian mafia in the Veneto area, unlike the Italian mafias, does not insinuate itself deeply into the economic fabric, but feeds crime linked to drug trafficking, prostitution, illegal immigration and extortion.
In November 2016 the news came that an important boss of the “Black Ax” was arrested in Zevio (Verona) , while in July 2019 affiliates of the “Maphite” , another Nigerian cult, ended up in handcuffs, also in Verona . In December 2019, an organization that managed a large part of the shop in the streets of Trento was dismantled , with Vicenza and Verona as supply and departure bases.
On 10 July 2018, however, a maxi operation in the station area in Mestre was hit, where an organization belonging to the “Eiye” Cult circuit was hit . The leader of the group escapes arrest until February 2019, when he is captured in Germany , from where he continued to manage and control the gang’s affairs. This Mestre-Venetian group was the driving force behind the sale of “yellow heroin” , a particular new quality of drug, responsible for the deaths of several young people in the north east.
On November 21, 2018, two other Nigerians, senior “Eiye” ranks , were arrested during the “Calypso” operation . They are resident in Padua and Treviso .
The Nigerian mafia is therefore very well integrated in the region and, although it is not capable of infiltrating the large economic circuit of companies and businesses, it manages to obtain very high earnings, especially thanks to drug dealing and prostitution.
Regarding the management of sex trafficking, it is now known how girls forced into prostitution are subjugated through physical and psychological violence, the latter practiced especially through the rites of voodoo : the direct testimonies of how the rituals served to “mark at a distance” are chilling. the families of the girls, so that if any of them fled or denounced the clan, they would suffer a death in the family due to the curse.
However, it seems, listening to some voices from the street, that there is also another parallel channel of prostitution, always managed by Nigerians; a channel that does not use threats, on the contrary, is persuasive. The girls would have a ” ticket ” for the trip to Italy, to be reimbursed to the organization, and they would be given a sidewalk on “loan for use” with a ” monthly loan “ until the “ticket” is fully paid . Once the payment is closed, the girls would be free to manage their lives, abandoning the streets and exploiters.
What would be the gain for the clan in this case? A considerable savings in “protection”: these prostitutes would not have guardians to control the passage, with a considerable saving of resources (and a lower risk of arrests) for the criminal gang.
No “protector” would also imply no beating caused by too low income (violence with consequences that often force sex slaves not to work for several days) and a continuous, quiet and steady presence would be seen on the roadsides that would generally lure new potential users of prostitution with an overall higher “return” for the prostitution business.
Furthermore, this system, which would develop an “entrepreneurial” mentality in prostitutes (ie the freedom granted to the young woman to keep more money than the “mortgage” would be an incentive for her to work in a decidedly continuous manner) would also gratify it would also lead to greater customer “loyalty” .
In fact, they would find themselves faced with girls not moved by the need to accumulate numerous payers to increase the revenues of the night, but by the desire to create a stable and safe network, similar to escorts but at much lower prices. Therefore, entrepreneur prostitutes would theoretically be not very “mechanical” and “cold” in the sexual act, therefore they would always theoretically provide more rewarding services to the subject who pays than the classic and fleeting “street sex” .
Meanwhile, the risks of this hypothetical dynamic could be high, because these girls, although they do not have the classic torturers to squeeze them, without guardians of any kind on the spot would still find themselves able to be subjected to very violent aggressions, basically of a sexual nature.
Furthermore, these young women would end up in the best of cases in the lap of luxury prostitution (with many of the aforementioned “loyal customers” ready to pay higher prices), again through ties with the organization, in which they would have unfortunately acquired confidence.
In the worst case, these lives would simply be lost.
Having seen the extreme variety of the Nigerian mafia, it is possible to conceive that there are different levels of exploitation of women, from a more classic and evidently slave-like to a more subtle and hypocritical but with always negative effects.
However, we must start from an obvious premise: this mafia did not take root by itself. Drugs and prostitution are two markets that need customers, who do not come from the world of immigrants. The customers of drug dealers and street girls are mainly local natives, people born, live and work in Veneto.
Dennis Vincent Klapwijk
The term Modern Slavery or Human Trafficking, are both terms used to refer to forced sex trafficking and labor. The traumatic 500+ years of enslavement of African people haunts the minds of over a billion Africans world wide. But now in the year 2020, Slavery has taken a new name called “Human Trafficking” and the real life nightmare of living enslaved is a reality for the vulnerable brothers and sisters in Nigeria. One particular slave route in Nigeria stretches to Libya to Italy and spreads throughout Europe.
Despite being the third largest criminal activity in the world, the illicit trafficking of people for forced labor and prostitution, which grosses approximately $150 billion annually, is an enterprise not well understood. Even the victims of the traffickers’ infamy, outside of their own personally horrific experiences, may have only a cursory sense of the large organizational elements that transported them from their homelands to nations and into professions far removed from their original expectations.
That is because the different criminal elements that compose this insidious industry, who operate using perverse and primitive levels of barbarism and brutality, perpetrate their offenses using a complex web of networks, organizations, and partnerships that make detection and enforcement difficult endeavors. Beneath the maniacal surface of human trafficking is a sophisticated and mysterious collection of traffickers, financiers, enforcers, recruiters, middlemen, and other minor and larger players who, at times seem disjointed, form well-organized routes to clandestinely transport people across a number of national borders. “Human traffickers,” read one Council on Foreign Relations article in June 2019, “use migration routes to deceive people into fraudulent travel arrangements and job opportunities.”
It is a combination of intricacy and deception that makes any framework of anti-trafficking laws difficult to implement. Like international terrorism, the removal of one tentacle only spawns several more, for as with terrorism, it is the overall machine that drives the act which is what lies at the heart of the beast, As the Catholic Sisters of the Hilton Foundation recently described this brutal business, “Trafficking intersects with the extreme and abusive drive for money, sex, and power,” and they added, “ the most common factor is poverty.”
No doubt poverty plays a key role in motivating people to leave their homelands and uproot themselves from their families for the possibility of a job and better life abroad. In fact, the false promise of jobs is the number one tactic used by “recruiters” to lure the most vulnerable prey. Yet conflict is becoming a driver from human trafficking that over the last decade has accounted for increased numbers of potential victims. One route made possible by conflict is one that stretches from Nigeria, to Libya, to Italy and points throughout Europe.
Last month, ten Nigerian men were detained by Italian police in Catania, Sicily on charges that ranged from trafficking, criminal association, to exploitation of prostitution. Sixty-four victims were known to have been smuggled by this ring, most of whom were women and among them were several minors who along the way were beaten, tortured, and psychologically enslaved through “juju” blood oaths. In what seems to be a tell-tale sign of Nigerian traffickers by “taking an oath to not speak out or flee, and to pay back the cost of getting to Europe,” these criminals were able to control their victims through fear and intimidation.
The crew nabbed looked to net approximately $1.4 million, in terms of the enormity of trafficking rings utilizing this route, the latest arrest of these ten individuals was a miniscule bust compared to the surge of trafficking conglomerates exploiting this well-traveled trail. According to the UN’s International Office of Migration (IOM), 80% of the tens of thousands of Nigerian women who arrive in Italy, through Libya, are victims of one sex trafficking ring or another.
And though the method and ploys for smuggling people may have changed, the practice of proliferating human cargo, particularly women and girls for the sex industry is hardly new. A number of Nigerian gangs, also known as confraternities have existed since the 1960s. Since then networks only have grown and found new partners, because according to a January 2019 Info Migrants article, “Each group along the route takes a cut.” One well known Nigerian confraternity operating this route, the or the “Airlords” has their own Facebook page, which shows the groups ability to brazenly use social media to commit criminal acts.
Another particularly brutal confraternity is named Black Axe or the Neo-Black Movement of Africa has also taken advantage of the Nigerian-Libyan-Sicilian route. As a result, “Prostitution is thought to be one of the most profitable businesses for Nigerian clans.” The Palermo Police, as reported by the Guardian in 2016, estimated that 90% of the prostitution ion Sicily is from Nigeria. Still more troubling, “in Nigeria the traffickers have been targeting younger and younger children in rural areas in order to keep feeding the trade.”
Conflict massively disrupts the social system, the legal system the political system, and puts a lot of people in highly vulnerable situations, especially women and girls,” noted James Cockayne, Director of the Center of Policy Research at the United Nations University in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations in June 2019. And in Libya, since the Arab Spring and the fall of long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi, the nation has been in a state of near constant civil conflict with only brief interludes of non-aggression. “Hundreds of African refugees are being bought and sold in slave markets across Libya each week,” with bands of militia, criminal gangs, and tribal clans using the lawless landscape as cover for their highly lucrative trafficking operations. In an area like Sabba, people are bought and sold in garages and car parks. Cockayne added, “Libya, is increasingly a slave-driven political economy, with militia fueled by control of rents over both an internal market for forced labor and an export market for forced labor.” In fact, a deteriorating criminal justice system, such as the one existent in Libya, is exactly the type of environment traffickers hope to exploit.
Aside benefiting from the highly profitable slave trade that exists inside Libya, the North African nation has become a major transfer point Italy and to points throughout the Europe and Asia. Both the Nigerian trafficking gangs and the Sicilian mafia have aggressively utilized Libya as a major transfer hub. Many refugees and trafficked individuals from countries like Ghana, Chad, Zambia, Senegal, Gambia, Sudan, and Nigeria are transported from remote locations like Sabba, through the scorching Libyan desert to Tripoli where many will eventually disembark at the Port of Augusta on Sicily’s east coast. There, scores of refugees and trafficking-in persons will be transported by bus to CARA di Mineo.
What once had served as housing for US Navy personnel, CARA di Mineo has become the largest migrant reception centre in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. However, arrival to the European migrant centre will come as little comfort to those transported there, and since 2011 and the Arab Spring the numbers of entries via Libya has grown exponentially. So much so, the facility was expanded in 2014. Despite the expansion, the facility often serves double its allowable capacity.
The facility has also been the subject for much political debate within Sicily, where politicians on both ends of the political spectrum have noted the troubling systematic issues with CARA such as poor sanitary conditions, corruption, poor management, and human trafficking. Indeed in 2015 Sicilian authorities launched an investigation into CARA based on allegations of corruption, and in 2016 further investigations revealed a Rome-based criminal organization was skimming public funding from the facility.
However both Italian and Nigerian authorities have recognized the scourge of crime in and around CARA and that the neighboring towns have become a haven for traffickers, drug smugglers, and prostitution. In 2011, then-Nigerian Ambassador to Italy Yusuf Jonga Hinna wrote an open letter to Italian prosecutors warning, “I would like to draw your attention to the new criminal activity of a group of Nigerians belonging to secret societies forbidden by the government because of violent acts.” In 2014, as the expansion of CARA was underway, it became clear that traffickers planned to exploit the Italian government’s willingness to accept increased numbers of migrants and asylum seekers from Africa. According to Info Migrant reflected, “Nigerian networks have started to profit from the legal framework of the migration set upon in 2014. Now the networks encourage women who have been trafficked to apply for asylum.”
Under Italy’s asylum laws, prospective applicants may receive up to two years free food ans shelter while their applications are processed. Additionally, children have been particularly vulnerable at the embattled migrant centre. In 2018, an estimated 5,000 child refugees vanished before they were registered by authorities. Despite the glaring problems and categorical management failures and the openness of the criminal elements operating at the facility efforts to shut down the centre have been met with cries of racism and xenophobia by some Italian politicians and media outlets.
Exploiting gaps in law enforcement, corrupt officials, and weak judicial systems are elements traffickers seek to thrive and build their networks. Regions, such as in North and West Africa that have been battered by war and civil conflict often produce a volatile cocktail of legal and governance ineptitudes that provide crease for traffickers and smugglers to slip through. Such issues also hinder the ability of regional law enforcement agencies to partner internationally to tackle what is indeed a worldwide problem.
By Vincent Amoroso