Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency says as many as 20, 000 Nigerian women and girls have been trafficked to Mali to work as prostitutes.
These women and girls are reportedly stranded in Mali requiring help to escape from their traffickers and return home.
Julie Okah-Donli who is director general of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) said the extent of the crisis was uncovered last month.
She said a fact-finding team from NAPTIP and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) made the discovering during a visit to southern Mali in December last year.
According to the anti-trafficking agency, the women and girls, most aged 16-30, were told they would be taken to Malaysia to work in hospitality.
They however found out that they were being taken to some west African countries to work as prostitutes.
Okah-Donli is quoted by Reuters as saying that hundreds more girls had been held in Southern Mali despite repatriating several of them months ago.
The fact-finding team according to Okah-Donli “were reliably informed by the locals that they had over 200 such places scattered around the southern part of Mali.
In each of the shacks where they held them they had 100 to 150 girls in the area. That is how we came to the figure”.
Most of the girls reportedly held according to Reuters reporting come mostly from states in southern Nigeria, including Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Anambra and Edo.
“They are held in horrible, slave-like conditions,” said Okah-Donli. “They can’t escape because they are kept in remote locations, like deep in forests.”
Hundred of Nigerian women in October last year were reported to be stranded in France after being trafficked there to work as sex-workers.
They are trafficked from their home country by a trafficking syndicate to work in descent jobs but became ‘sex-slaves’.
Nigerian officials continue to struggle to prevent such trafficking activities as many young women continue to aspire to travel abroad for greener pastures.