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The neighborhood landmarks serve as constant reminders of the problem Joy grapples with daily: There is no work here. She was told she owed them more than €20,000 (,427) for the journey and was forced to work on the streets of Parma as a prostitute for several months to pay off her debt.“I was told there was a lot of work I could do,” Joy recalled.
I don’t like it.”Joy, whose name has been changed for this story, already tried leaving Nigeria once. A friend of the family offered her a job working as a nanny in Italy.
They want to get back to Europe and try to find a better job there again. After paying off her “debt” in Italy, she lived at a shelter in Parma run by Caritas, an NGO that helps trafficking victims.
She made friends there, and started to enjoy her new life.
But she could never get the immigration documents she needed to legally stay and work in Italy and she missed her family.
So, she decided to come back home and she’s been regretting it ever since.
Joy walks along an overgrown path winding through a village on the rural outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria. Joy was thrilled to get the offer — she already had two children, and her young family needed the money.
We have what we call ‘a no-place-like-home’ party,” explained Sister Patricia Ebegbulem, a Catholic nun who has worked with trafficking victims for 20 years.She runs a shelter in Lagos to help returning women reintegrate into society.When Joy got back from Italy, she stayed there and got some seed money from the nun to start a small business.“Even though many girls try to run away because of the hardship, we assure them that the rest of us are here. For many women, coming back to Nigeria is not a soft landing.And jobs are still hard to find.“They are full of bitterness, hurt, anger, because of what society has done to them,” Sister Ebegbulem said.“We try as much as we can to prevent them from being retrafficked.”When Joy left for Italy, she boarded a plane in Lagos and landed in Rome.
(Her name has also been changed to protect her identity.)In Libya, she was locked inside a building and forced to work as a prostitute while she waited for her passage over the Mediterranean to Italy.“In my own connection house, we were more than 11 girls," she said. The madam brought the men inside.”Eventually, instead of getting on a boat to Italy, she was deported by plane back to Nigeria — and for that, she considers herself lucky.