The UK Home Office is facing criticism over its policy on women trafficked from Nigeria to Europe, according to CNN report.
A section of the policy document updated in June by the UK immigration agency said that while victims face the risk of being trafficked again to pay off debts owed their traffickers, those who become “wealthy from prostitution” were being celebrated on their return.
Citing the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) as one of its sources, UK’s immigration agency said “trafficked women who return from Europe, wealthy from prostitution, enjoy high social-economic status and in general are not subject to negative social attitudes on return. They are often held in high regard because they have improved income prospects.”
But in a swift reaction, the Head of Research for Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Mr. Godwin Morka, said it was “disappointing” that the UK Home Office would suggest that victims were profiting from their exploitation.
“The victims have been exploited and tricked in the first place. They are not the traffickers, who make money from enslaving them. There is nothing glamorous about it and by the time we rescue them they are so traumatised,” Morka told CNN.
On her part, Labour MP, Kate Osamor, said the remarks depicted human trafficking as a job and did not reflect the plight of victims.
She called on the UK Home Office to issue an apology and quickly amend the policy, which serves as a reference document on trafficking in Nigeria.
“Home Office need to apologise as soon as possible and rewrite policy,” she tweeted, adding that, “It shows the home office doesn’t trust people who go through these experiences. You’d expect authorities to take them in, listen and unpack their experience and not treat trafficking like it’s a job.”
Immigration lawyer, Charlotte Proudman called the policy a “deplorable guidance.”
CNN reported that thousands of girls are illegally trafficked from Nigeria to destinations in Europe and Africa every year. Many of them, mostly women and girls, are forced into labour and sexually exploited to finance their stay abroad.
In April, the UK government and NAPTIP began a campaign to encourage Nigerians to find jobs at home instead of risking their lives to travel to foreign countries in search of opportunities.
Director of Programmes for the Women Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON), Morenike Omaiboje, a local organisation rehabilitating trafficked women, said there were many forms of human trafficking in the country.
Although most victims become impoverished on their return to the country having being sold into slavery abroad, some have made money off recruiting girls into prostitution rings in Europe.
“Majority of the victims that we meet at the borders and airport are wretched, especially those who were enslaved are wretched. But some are the Madams, who were trafficked many years back, but got recycled, and they are now rich because they are enslaving others,” Omaiboje told CNN.