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Beyond borders: Human trafficking from Nigeria to the UK

crime, employment, human rights, justice, migration

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Author(s):  Myriam Cherti, Jenny Pennington, Peter Grant
Published date:  17 Jan 2013
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This in-depth case study report presents the findings from new research into the causes, processes and effects of human trafficking from Nigeria to the UK. Taking a 'whole of journey' approach, it identifies gaps in understanding, policy, support and response in both countries.

The report focuses on trafficking from Nigeria to the UK as part of a wider programme of research on irregular migration from sub-Saharan Africa and the Maghreb to Europe. Although some of its recommendations are specific to Nigeria and the UK, others have wider implications for dealing with trafficking in sending, transit and receiving countries.

Looking beyond an anti-trafficking response based on border control, the report provides recommendations for policy and practice in the areas of:

  • preventing trafficking
  • protecting trafficked people
  • prosecuting traffickers
  • maximising cooperation within the anti-trafficking network.

Gigi is one of 40 people we interviewed as part of our research involving people who had been trafficked from Nigeria to the UK:

Like many victims of trafficking, as a child Gigi had high hopes for the future. ‘When I was younger, I wanted to do well in school and make my parents proud and get a good job.’ However, her life was changed by a sudden destabilising event: the death, aged 12, of her parents in a religious riot. Crucially, this tragic event also heightened her vulnerability. Months later, now orphaned, a stranger appeared claiming to be a relative of the girl. ‘I had never seen her before but initially I believed this. She told me she would look after me as no one could find my family.’ Instead, she was soon forced by her ‘aunty’ into domestic servitude and her education was abruptly ended.

Though sudden, the move abroad was in many ways a continuation of her situation in Nigeria. Having relocated to London with her exploiter to join the rest of the family, the workload became even worse, and her isolation more complete. ‘I was kept locked in the house for approximately six years. I never left the house from 2003 until 2009. I had to look after the children all day and also at night. I had to prepare their food every two hours and make sure that their nappies were dry. I had to sleep on the floor in the children’s room. I hardly slept and was never given enough food.’ Physical and psychological abuse from her trafficker was a daily reality. ‘Aunty used to beat me regularly. She would use different things: her hand, a belt, wooden cooking spoon, the pipe of the hoover. I had to kneel down in front of her and she would often slap me and beat me on my back.’

Gigi escaped and sought support at a hairdresser. However, this was not the end of her experience of vulnerability. She was afraid to go the police: ‘Aunty said they would arrest me and beat me.’ She drifted between staying with different people she met on the street and in church, but this was unsustainable. ‘There was no room in her house – she was trying to help but I couldn’t stay there.’ She was left homeless and slept out on the streets for six months.

Since receiving support, Gigi has had to rebuild her life slowly after years of trauma and lack of access to education or healthcare. Now her focus is on finally completing the education she was denied for so long, and potentially helping other victims like herself to rebuild their lives. ‘I would like to finish my education and probably get a job and be able to look after myself. And maybe one day [I would like to work] around trafficking, with women who travel back to Nigeria.’ For now, she is awaiting a decision as to whether she can stay in the UK. Her trafficker has not been arrested.

 
 

Our people

Myriam Cherti, Associate Fellow

Jenny Pennington, Researcher