By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Many survivors of sex and labor trafficking struggle with unaddressed health challenges, poverty, and abhorrent conditions upon their return to Nigeria, Human Rights Watch ( HRW) said in a report released yesterday in Abuja.
It added that Nigerian authorities have failed to provide the assistance that survivors need to rebuild their lives and have unlawfully detained many of the already traumatized women and girls in shelters.
The HRW in a 90-page report, “‘You Pray for Death’: Trafficking of Women and Girls in Nigeria,” provided detailed accounts of how human trafficking operates in Nigeria.
“Human Rights Watch found that the nightmare does not end for survivors who manage to return home. The Nigerian government should take steps to address the serious health conditions, social exclusion, and poverty faced by survivors, and stop further traumatizing survivors by detaining them in shelters.
“Women and girls trafficked in and outside Nigeria have suffered unspeakable abuses at the hands of traffickers, but have received inadequate medical, counseling, and financial support to reintegrate into society,” said Agnes Odhiambo, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“We were shocked to find traumatized survivors locked behind gates, unable to communicate with their families, for months on end, in government-run facilities.”
Human Rights Watch said it interviewed 76 trafficking survivors in Nigeria, as well as government officials, civil society leaders, and representatives of donor governments and institutions providing support to anti-trafficking efforts in Nigeria.
“The frequent trafficking of Nigerian women and girls to Europe and Libya has led to international headlines in recent years and to action by the Nigerian government. Many women and girls are also held in slavery-like conditions inside Nigeria.
“Nigerian authorities have taken some important steps to address the country’s widespread problem of trafficking, including establishing shelters, assisting with medical care, and creating skills training and economic support programs for trafficking survivors.
“However, the authorities rely too heavily on shelters, as opposed to community-based services, as the primary means of providing services to survivors. Nigerian authorities have also detained trafficking survivors in shelters, not allowing them to leave at will, often for many months, in violation of Nigeria’s international legal obligations. Protection should not be an excuse to arbitrarily detain women and girls and deprive them of their liberty and freedom of movement, Human Rights Watch said. Such detention conditions risk their recovery and well-being.”