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A sex slave’s escape story: How a young Nigerian girl fled from a deadly flesh trade network in Denmark

The story of a young Nigerian who had a miraculous escape from a dangerous human trafficking network from Europe's dark underbelly

Thousands of women are smuggled to European cities each year and forced to engage in sexual activity with males. Jewel, a young Nigerian who had planned to work as a caregiver, could ultimately flee thanks to two unexpected encounters

“I just noticed some light. Because there is no electricity where I originate from, it is frequently dark… But everything was blinking here, and it was quite lovely.” 

Jewel, which is not her real name – is describing her arrival in Denmark.” I was praising God for allowing me to visit this nation. I was excited to get back to work.” Jewel took a flight from Nigeria to work with the elderly. “People who are trafficked frequently travel through Libya on buses or boats. But it was so well-organized that it didn’t seem odd in the least, “she explains. According to the International Organization for Migration, 80 percent of Nigerian women who go overseas and cross the Mediterranean are trafficked into the European sex slave trade. 

Image Credit: BBC (A painting by Jewel, expressing her feelings as a trafficked and sexually exploited woman)

Jewel had heard of women who had died after the risky trek, so she was relieved when her voyage began at Lagos airport. The next day, she was greeted in Copenhagen by a Nigerian woman who drove her to Vesterbro, Copenhagen’s red-light area. Jewel was told to be aware of her surroundings as they strolled through the streets. 

The woman then threw a bombshell.  

“‘This is where you’ll be working,’ she explained. I scanned the area to see whether she was pointing to a structure I hadn’t spotted. But actually, she was referring to the area where we’d been wandering. That’s when she briefed me that I would be a prostitute and that this was where I’d be looking for clients. Then the entirety of Denmark descended upon me….” 

Image Credits: BBC (A street in Vesterbro at night)

That night, Jewel had a chance meeting with Michelle Mildwater from HopeNow, a Danish NGO that supports trafficked persons, who recognised the petite, frightened 20-something lady and offered her a card with a contact number on it. Jewel’s Nigerian supervisor, “madam,” warned her not to trust an English lady on a bike. Then she found Jewel, her first customer, in no time. Jewel’s job of selling sex did not get any more straightforward in the months that followed. 

“I was terrible at it. I was the quiet one in the back. But I was always spotted because the regulars knew when a new person arrived and wanted a piece of them.” 

Image Credit: BBC (Michelle Mildwater founded HopeNow in 2007)

According to the European Commission, the principal aim of trafficking remains sexual exploitation, with illegal income estimated to be worth a whopping 14 billion euros in a single year. 

The women who make this money are informed that they owe their traffickers large sums of money for transportation and lodging. “Nigerians are one of the most indebted groups of migrant sex workers. It might cost anywhere from 10,000 to 60,000 euros. And when you’re in that much debt, you have to generate a lot of money quickly. If you don’t have any paperwork that allows you to work, the sex industry is the quickest method to make money.” 

Jewel’s traffickers told her she’d have to pay 42,000 euros in installments. They invited her to a terrifying meeting in a cemetery the day before she flew out of Nigeria to stress their point. “I was compelled to swear that I would pay the money regardless of what happened and that I would not identify who had trafficked me. If I did, a slew of awful things would befall my family and me.” 

Jewel was under a lot of stress and didn’t think she could be picky about the clients she served inside and outside of parked automobiles on Vesterbro’s streets or in their homes. “You are unable to refuse. You have no choice but to say yes since ten or fifteen other women are eyeing that same guy who is searching for a quick buck that evening, she explains.”

Image Credits: BBC (Red van volunteers Pauline Hoffman Schroder, Sine Plambech and Aphinya Jatuparisakul)

‘Impunity Of Fraudsters’

Michelle Mildwater, assisting foreign prostitutes in Denmark for more than a decade, still makes the rounds here, handing out her card and offering assistance and counseling to women like Jewel. She knows how dangerous street life can be, having witnessed several violent incidents in one of the district’s hotels. 

She recalls, “We had several rapes in there.” “There were instances when a woman would run out covered in blood.” 

Jewel, too, was hesitant to report to the authorities after four months on the streets, desperate, sad, and on the verge of suicide. She was still in debt and worried about her safety and that of her family in Nigeria. Then everything changed in her life. It may sound romantic, even fairytale-like, but Jewel met and fell in love with a Danish man. She told him everything on their first date, after a lovely supper. She now says of the man who became her husband, “That’s a responsibility he’s had to carry.” 

Jewel quit begging on the streets, and he assisted her in repaying her madam every week. However, the couple required assistance. Her partner inquired if Jewel knew someone who could help them.

Image Credits: BBC (Jewel, after her escape, on her wedding day)

Michelle Mildwater had handed Jewel a card the first night she sold sex in Vesterbro, and Jewel had kept it. Michelle counseled Jewel, guiding her through her difficulties and giving her the courage to stop paying her madam. Fortunately, neither she nor her family has suffered any harsh consequences, possibly because her trafficker was not a member of one of the vast global criminal networks. Jewel is now waiting to hear back on her application to stay in Denmark. Meanwhile, she has grown proficient in Danish and has given birth to a child. Michelle and Jewel have become fast friends. Jewel’s Best Woman was an NGO worker from HopeNow when she married. 

“One of the proudest moments of my life was having someone escort me down the aisle, and Michelle was the one who accomplished it,” Jewel adds. 

Jewel aspires to attend business school one day. She also wants to aid women on the streets as a volunteer. “That was the therapeutic process. I was kind of… out of my body while doing the show. I felt like I was in the audience, and what I saw moved me deeply, “Jewel expresses herself. 

Conclusion

To eradicate the trafficking of women and girls, we must educate people about the full scope of human trafficking’s ramifications and spot the indicators. It is vital to begin increasing awareness about this in schools as early as elementary school to prevent adolescents from becoming victims.

“Because this isn’t simply a narrative, it’s people’s reality.”

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