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article imageAfrican Women Being Sold Into European ''Sex Slavery''

By Sinikka Tarvainen     Mar 14, 2001 in Technology
MADRID (dpa) - "I swear to pay my aunt Iveve 40,000 dollars and not to tell anything to the police," the document reads. "If I fail to honour my pledge, aunt Iveve has the right to kill me and my family in Nigeria."

Even seasoned Spanish police experts have been struck by the case of Jennifer, 20, a Nigerian girl who was coerced into prostitution in order to pay the sum mentioned in a document she was forced to sign.

Jennifer is just one more case in a growing body of evidence that African women are being turned into "sex slaves" in Europe with vendors resorting to the most unscrupulous methods.

The number of Sub-Saharan African prostitutes has soared in Madrid's Casa de Campo park and it has been dubbed an "open-air brothel".

The vast majority of the women come from Nigeria, while some are believed to hail from Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Cameroon. African, Latin American and eastern European prostitutes are conquering the market from Spanish prostitutes, most of whom are drug addicts.

Some of the African girls appear to be as young as 12 years old, press reports said.

Jennifer came from an rural village near Benin City in southwestern Nigeria, where girls are lured to Europe with the promise of jobs as secretaries or stewardesses.

After months of arduous travel on foot, truck or bus, the women arrive in Morocco where they are lodged in ruined buildings or mountain camps in preparation for an opportunity to cross over to Spain.

Spanish police have noticed a rapid increase in the number of pregnant women among the illegal immigrants who cross the Strait of Gibraltar with the help of Moroccan criminal gangs in unseaworthy vessels.

One of the reasons for the pregnancies is thought to be that women being taken to Europe for prostitution are often raped on the way by men ostensibly there to "protect" them.

After arrival, the girls are taken to Nigerian "mamis" or minders such as 22-year-old Iveve. She too is a former prostitute who forced Jennifer to swear she would pay with her life if she failed to reimburse the cost of her trip.

The girls are kept in dark rooms in a bid to break their will. If the "mamis" fail to persuade them to work as prostitutes, pimps are called in, often beating and raping them.

If violence fails to work, minders and pimps have been known to resort to African magic rites. They take nails, hair and menstrual blood from the girls, threatening to cast spells on them and frightening them so much that they often agree to become sex workers for five years.

Scantily-clad Jennifer spends her days standing around in the cold, approaching cars which drive through the Casa de Campo and offering to sell her body for 3,000 pesetas (16 dollars) a time.

Other African prostitutes are "sold" to brothels in Spain or other European countries such as Britain and the Netherlands. The price of a woman is set at around two million pesetas (11,000 dollars).

The growing presence of prostitutes has led to protests by residents of the Casa de Campo area and other neighbourhoods. Police checks have been stepped up but that alone is unlikely to alleviate the plight of the women who dreamed of a better life in Europe.
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