The Spanish police, in cooperation with Europol, last week arrested the members of a trafficking ring that forced young women from Nigeria into prostitution.
The trafficking of human beings destined for prostitution is as old as mankind. During war, famine or any kind of crisis, women and children are stolen or kidnapped and then taken to far off or nearby destinations to be sold as sex slaves.
It’s happened everywhere – on every continent and in every society, regardless of its level of civilisation.
Prostitution is part of the lucrative “businesses” of organised crime, just like smuggling drugs and cigarettes and human trafficking. During the last two years, trafficking in the Balkans and in Italy has become increasingly lucrative – more so than drugs smuggling.
What is more, a considerable part of the revenue from these activities is directed to finance terrorism all over the world.
In recent years, the “merchandise” being peddled in Europe’s red-light districts or by the clandestine prostitution rings has been sourced from the victims of local or regional crisis.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the exposure of a deeply rotten, economically poor and corrupt society filled Europe with young girls forced to work as sex slaves.
The war in Kosovo and the explosive economic crisis in Albania in the 1990s sent hundreds of Albanian girls into the European Union’s sex market. The same happened following the conflicts in Caucasus and in Moldova.
During these years, the presence of African prostitutes was not completely unknown but still not so frequently observed. It was only in Italy that Nigerian prostitution was visible – even passersby could see the young black girls marching through the streets of northern Italian cities. In the other European countries, African prostitutes were either confined to specific zones of the red-light districts or hidden by underground rings. African prostitutes were treated like slaves, as were their “colleagues” from post-Soviet countries. In their case, there were more terrifying stories as many of them were forced to flee their homes to escape local racial or religious conflicts or were sold by their families or relatives. But recent developments in Africa have provoked the mass trafficking of women and girls directed to Europe’s sex market.
The reasons for such an explosion are known and visible.
Terrorism and local conflicts in the region are just as horrific as before and the links between terrorists and traffickers have never stopped.
The routes to Europe are quite open now since Libya is in chaos and since other coastal Mediterranean countries cannot stop the traffickers.
Maybe it is not such a surprise when Italian police, from time to time, arrest members of prostitution rings and traffickers related to the African sex slavery. But what is a surprise is the arrest of members of such a prostitution ring in Spain last week.
The discovery of the prostitution ring in Spain was a success of the Spanish police and a success of police cooperation in Europe since Europol played a big role.
But it is also rather alarming.
First of all, because the arrest of trafficking and prostitution rings in European countries related to African sex slaves has become more frequent, suggesting we are in front of a new phenomenon of unknown dimensions.
Secondly, because it seems the Afro-Spanish route which brings migrants to Europe isn’t dormant anymore and has been activated though not on a large scale.
Lastly, because the mass existence of African sex slaves in EU countries proves the low level of awareness about this issue in our society. It proves, as well, that in Europe there is a “market” ready to welcome and absorb this “human merchandise”.
Isn’t it time the European societies respond to the phenomenon with an active campaign to increase public awareness? After all, behind the tragic drama of human beings being forced into the sex trade, there is organised crime and terrorism.