Before you ‘Japa’, know about human trafficking

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From Fred Ezeh, Abuja


Increasingly, more people are falling into the traps of human traffickers simply because of ignorance or greed. Unfortunately, human trafficking has become an existential threat to global human race.

This “evil” deed of some cartel have continued to assume different dimensions, in spite of massive global response to this modern day slavery.

Increased internet penetration has left more people vulnerable to human trafficking even without them knowing they are being trafficked. This growing act of wickedness to humanity, perhaps, warranted this enlightenment piece.

With the increasing access to internet-enabled devices, most human traffickers have moved their trade to online platforms, targeting vulnerable young persons with mouth-watering and unrealistic promises and offers across the world.

Nigeria is, obviously, faced with “japaa” syndrome. However, but before you join the japaa syndrome, maybe accept job offer abroad, education, tourism, or other opportunities, please do a proper background checks on the offer and other details attached therein to avoid being trafficked, unknowingly.

In fact, you are advised to contact National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), or reach out to Embassy of your desired destination country for better information so you can be “double sure”.

What is human trafficking?

Evidently, many people, especially those desiring to “japaa” (relocate abroad) have little or no knowledge about human trafficking. But in what looks like desperation, they are eager to leave Nigeria, not knowing what they could face over there.

Wikipedia defined human trafficking as the trade of humans for the purposes of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. This, it added, may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage, or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy and ova removal.

Human trafficking is regarded as third largest crime industry in the world behind drugs and arms dealings. And is the fastest-growing activity of trans-national criminal organizations. It’s a multi-billion dollar business that has facilitators across the transit or destination countries.

International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that 50 million people were living in modern slavery in 2021. Of these people, 28 million were in forced labour and 22 million were trapped in forced marriage. Meanwhile the number of people in modern slavery has risen significantly in the last five years. 10 million more people were in modern slavery in 2021 compared to 2016 global estimate.

Who is a human trafficker?

Human trafficker is someone who trades or facilitate trade on human beings. Human traffickers can be foreign nationals, citizens, family members, partners, acquaintances, and strangers. They can act alone or as part of an organized criminal enterprise.

People often incorrectly assume that all traffickers are males. However, evidences have proven that women are also largely involved in the illicit trade, and many of them have been prosecuted for cases of human trafficking within and outside Nigeria.

So, It’s time we begin to educate and enlighten ourselves and younger ones on how to identify a human trafficker or its agent, how to avoid their traps and possibly report them to the authorities. So, we need to recognize and be attentive to the signs/red flags.

Reasons for human trafficking

Many people engage in human trafficking for one reason or the other. Some traffick victims for purposes of forced labour. Others do that for other criminal activities, some for sexual exploitation, organ harvesting, smuggling, among others. In all, you must be aware that human trafficking can occur within a community, country or trans-nationally, and in most cases, orchestrated by close family members, friends or other people we trusted and are free with. It does not necessarily involve the movement of the person from one place to another. Once a victim is trafficked, the freedom is lost. The victim is held against will through acts of coercion, and forced to work for or provide services to the trafficker or others.

Who is most vulnerable?

Anyone can experience trafficking in any community, just as anyone can be victim of any kind of crime. But there are indications that suggest that people of colour are more likely to experience trafficking than other demographic groups, hence traffickers are quick to recognize them and prey on them as quickly as they could.

How traffickers lure victims

As stated earlier, human traffickers often identify their targets, and once they do, they swoop on them with mouth-watering offers and unrealistic promises to woo their targets especially if such person is confirmed or had shown strong signs of being vulnerable.

Sweet stories are often the weapons in the hands of the human traffickers. They appear with tales of romantic love or about good job opportunities with huge wages. Sometimes, the stories themselves raise red flags. Other times, traffickers or potential traffickers may raise red flags during recruitment.

Signs of labour trafficking

Labour trafficking is when men, women, and children are forced to work because of debt, immigration status, threats and violence. Keeping victims isolated, physically or emotionally, is a key method of control in most labour trafficking situations.

Someone may be experiencing labour trafficking or exploitation if they are pressured by their employer to stay in a job or situation they want to leave. If they are owed money to an employer or recruiter or are not being paid what they were promised or are owed, do not have control of their passport or other identity documents, among several others.

Signs of sex trafficking

Sex trafficking occurs when individuals are made to perform commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Any child under 18 who is involved in commercial sex is legally a victim of trafficking, regardless of whether there is a third party involved.

Someone may be experiencing sex trafficking if they want to stop participating in commercial sex but feel scared or unable to leave the situation. Scared of disclosing that they were reluctant to engage in commercial sex but that someone pressured them into it, live where they work or are transported by guards between home and workplace, have a “pimp” or “manager” in the commercial sex industry, work in an industry where it may be common to be pressured into performing sex acts for money, such as a strip club, illicit cantina, go-go bar, or illicit massage business.

Factors that influence trafficking

Poverty is one of the major factor that can make somebody vulnerable for human trafficking and child labour. Most times, poverty force parents to give up their children to be taken to cities and work as house helps. Some parents even choose to sell their children outrightly into slavery, while others go to cities or travel abroad to engage in prostitution in order to make money.

Other strong factors that have been proven to influence human trafficking are greed, low self-esteem, corruption, ignorance, war, among several others.

Effects of human trafficking

Human trafficking leaves the victims with horrible experiences. People who are being trafficked are often subjected to all forms of physical abuse such as rape, beating and torture. Children among them are used as house helps and the female ones are raped and sometimes starved of food and other basic needs of life. This affects the psychological growth of such children.

Human trafficking leads to abuse of fundamental human rights because they are often denied their right to free thought, conscience and decisions. Female ones are forced into unprotected sex which often result in unwanted pregnancies. Some of these girls, when they give birth will throw the child away or abandon the child without adequate care. Another point is that people who are trafficked are usually stigmatized especially when they are deported to the country from abroad.