BY Sunday Isuwa, Abuja
The federal government and the United Kingdom (UK) have concluded plans to begin a crackdown on the barbaric crime of human trafficking in Nigeria.
Accordingly, in a bid to ensure a world, free from this abhorrent trade, the British government has committed £7 million to tackle the root causes of human trafficking in Nigeria.
LEADERSHIP Weekend reports that there are an estimated 46 million people living in modern slavery across the globe who have been trafficked, coerced or otherwise forced into terrible exploitation, labour or domestic servitude.
The new crackdown, it was gathered, will build the evidence base and trial interventions to prevent modern slavery.
UK’s international development secretary, Priti Patel, who disclosed this yesterday said, “We will provide credible alternatives for women and girls in the high risk demographic and help diversify economic activity in Edo State – Nigeria’s trafficking hub – and other Niger Delta states.
“We will improve the essential support for victims, including counselling and reintegration assistance, to prevent vulnerable people being re-trafficked and falling back into a cycle of exploitation. DFID will help Nigeria to step up ways of tackling modern slavery and act as Champions who will help us advocate for reform”.
IOM estimates that approximately 80% of girls arriving to Europe from Nigeria are potential victims of trafficking for exploitation, just as the number soared from 1,454 in 2014 to 11,009 in 2016.
Press and public affairs officer of the British High Commission in Nigeria, Joe Abuku, also said yesterday there was an estimate of about 10,000 – 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK in 2013.
In December last year, the international development secretary announced £8 million to give double support to a special protection fund set up to keep women and girl refugees in the Mediterranean region safe from trafficking and exploitation.
But during a visit to a safe house in Nigeria, Ms Patel met survivors of modern slavery and announced increased support of £7 million to provide alternative livelihoods for potential victims of trafficking and modern slavery, including support for those who become victims to help them reintegrate into society and protect them from re-trafficking – reducing a crime that directly affects the UK.
Nigeria is the fourth largest source of human trafficking to the UK and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that approximately 80% of girls arriving to Europe from Nigeria are potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
During a joint visit to Nigeria alongside Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, Ms Patel raised the issue of trafficking at the highest levels in government and challenged the political and cultural acceptance of modern slavery, a trade which earns more for criminals around the world than any other, apart from the illegal drug trade.
She said, “It is shameful that in the 21st Century the evil crime of modern slavery lurks in every corner of the globe, including on the UK’s streets, destroying the lives of young men and women. We will not stand aside and ignore this barbaric and often invisible crime which all too often reaches our shores and is damaging for everyone except the perpetrators.
“The UK is a global leader in stamping out modern slavery, pressing the international community including the Nigerian Government to tackle this crime at source, bring perpetrators to justice and protect victims who have been subject to unimaginable horrors.
“Our support is offering vulnerable girls and women an alternative life to slavery and exploitation and helping them reintegrate into society, stopping vicious cycles of abuse and creating a more prosperous and secure future for thousands, as well as for us at home”.
The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, had made clear that tackling modern slavery is a top priority for the UK, which created the world leading Modern Slavery Act in 2015, and establishing the cross-government taskforce, which includes the International Development Secretary.
According to latest figures, 875,000 Nigerians are living in modern slavery worldwide, including in the UK, Ms Patel heard from counselors at a safe house she visited in Lagos run by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), which has helped some of these vulnerable people.
Patel saw children – some as young as seven years old – who have been trafficked across the world, including to the UK, Europe, Libya and other countries across Africa.
She said, “This new package of support builds on progress already being made by the UK in Nigeria and across the world. The UK’s existing assistance in Nigeria is helping to support investigations and bring perpetrators to justice, as well as providing for victims.
“The British government is driving reform within the international system to coordinate a more effective and focused approach to stamp out this exploitation.”