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America’s strip club capital sees push for fair terms, labor rights and food

Meals 4 Heels is offering healthy late-night takeout for sex workers and strippers, and its just part of a discussion on wellness and working conditions in the industry

Nikeisah Newton has cornered a market in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, which she calls strip city.

Shortly before 10pm on a Friday, Newton bounces around her kitchen, steaming kale and packing take-out boxes into a tote bag. Newton is working for herself in a business she created called Meals 4 Heels, a one-of-a-kind food service that delivers fresh, nutritious bowls to sex workers and strippers during late-night hours.

After 13 years of living in Portland and hustling in food service, Newton launched Meals 4 Heels in January. Her ex-girlfriend is a stripper and she has several friends who work in the industry. She quickly noticed that no one was looking out for their basic health needs like sustenance.

Were known for our food carts and strip clubs, but yet the human aspect is missing, said Newton. It doesnt make sense why there hasnt been something like this.

Better eating is just a part of a wider discussion on wellness and labor rights and conditions taking place in some of the countrys strip clubs. Just as in more conventional workspaces, there is now a debate over workers rights, the complex pros and cons of contract work and a struggle to wrest better terms from employers.

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Cha Cha plus chicken sausage, a dish produced by Meals 4 Heels. Photograph: Nikeisah C Newton

Portland is home to the most strip clubs per capita in the US. According to research by Priceonomics, the city boasts 54 and has more than twice as many strip clubs as it has public restrooms. That is largely because Oregons constitution protects obscenity under the first amendment. Moreover, zoning laws state that businesses cannot be denied locations based on their sexual content or nature.

Yet despite their numbers, strippers and sex workers are rarely free from disparagement in many instances their industry is the first to face harassment and the last to be protected.

For Newton, Meals 4 Heels is her way of putting a diverse and caring face on Portlands sex industry, while nourishing its workers.

From an online menu, clients can choose from several south-western and Mediterranean-inspired bowls, like the GTP ($Gettin That Paper$), a gluten-free and vegan dish that includes roasted cauliflower and sweet potato noodles; or the Freegan Vegan, piled with roasted yams, apples, sauted mushrooms and brown rice. Almost all ingredients are organic and locally sourced.

The menu is curated for dancers, said Newton. No legumes, low on nightshades, low garlic, onions and acids, so theyre not gassy or breathing garlic. I keep that in mind.

Newton does all the prepping and cooking herself and delivers to about 20 clubs. Shes also running a GoFundMe campaign to help cover costs and wants Meals 4 Heels to be recognized as a business of color in Americas whitest city.

At Riverside Corral, a strip club in Portlands south-east neighborhood, a dancer who uses the stage name Plum ordered the Verbal Tipper, which comes with lemon pepper couscous, massaged kale, pickled veggies and marinated artichokes.

What she likes most about Meals 4 Heels, said Plum, is the delivery, number one. And its so nice to have food thats healthy thats not going to make me fart or shit my pants. And its just made with love.

Julie Flores, a stripper at Club Rogue, said her favorite was the Cha Cha Cha, which blends brown rice, citrus slaw, black olives, avocado and tortilla chips.

Its just a really good, clean option for us, said Flores. Where I work, we just have fried shit, like wings. So [Meals 4 Heels] provides wholesome meals that fuel our bodies, because every time I come home I feel like I just did a workout.

Late-night employees would be hard pressed to find food options that are open at 2am and not teeming with trans fats and cholesterol.

But a healthy diet is just one of the issues facing Portlands sex workers and strippers.

Matilda Bickers, a former stripper, and Amy Pitts, another dancer, sued Portlands Casa Diablo strip club in 2015, citing unpaid wages and harassment, on the part of the customers and employees. They settled out of court.

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A strip club in Portland, Oregon, which has more strip clubs per capita than any other US city. Photograph: Melanie Sevcenko/The Guardian

Since then, Bickers, who now works as an escort, has been a vocal proponent of sex workers rights in the city. One of her most publicized platforms is lobbying for strippers to be classified as employees in Oregon.

Most strippers in the US are deemed independent contractors. Theyre paid in tips, rather than an hourly wage or salary.

Many of them prefer the freedom to schedule their own shifts, wear whatever they want, do the job in the way they want, work for competitors even, said the labor lawyer Rich Meneghello. Now if they became employees, a lot of that freedom goes away.

But freedom also means contractors dont pay into social security or Medicare, are not eligible for sick leave, overtime or unemployment benefits and are not protected in the same way as employees from workplace harassment.

In addition, as contractors, strippers essentially have to pay to work, through what are called stage or house fees. They can range anywhere from five dollars to well over a hundred. Its a pay for the pole policy that is typically meant to cover expenses like advertising and club maintenance.

If theyre late to a shift, get sick or dont make enough in a night to pay those fees, the stripper then owes back rent to the club.

In January this year, a Democratic state senator, Kathleen Taylor, introduced a bill that would have classified strippers as employees. The bill was eventually laid to rest, marking the third attempt to get this type of legislation passed.

According to a study by Portland State University, because Portland strippers dont require a permit, can perform fully nude, allow clients to touch them with consent during private dances, and, as contractors, lack protection from workplace agencies, the research suggests that exotic dancers are at risk of experiencing various forms of violence while at work with limited resources to turn to for help.

Of 33 strippers who participated in the study, 32 reported experiencing some form of violence while at work, while 84% reported they had experienced unwanted groping, rape, forced or coerced unwanted sexual acts.

Elle Stanger, who dances at Portlands Lucky Devil Lounge, is fiercely committed to maintaining her independent contractor status. She makes good money, has control over her performances and schedule, and keeps all her earnings from private dances.

But she recognizes that her club is not all clubs, which means theres no silver bullet solution.

I just want to caution people to be wary of a quick fix approach to labor problems, when the issues tend to be so different in some cases, said Stanger.

Stripper
Elle Stanger has been co-organizing the Portland Slutwalk since 2014. Its a demonstration against sexual violence and victim-blaming. Photograph: Courtesy Elle Stanger

In neighboring California, a bill passed the legislature in September that designates independent contractors in several industries as employees, including strippers. At first sight, it sounds good.

But Stanger, who co-hosts the sex worker industry podcast Strange Bedfellows, has been asking for feedback from strippers in California who have recently become employees. According to Stanger, the majority say the bill is damaging to their industry, claiming lower earnings and fewer bookings.

Stanger foresees clubs forced to fire dancers, simply because they wont be able to afford their wages.

I heard from dancers who said: I was deemed too fat for my club. Or due to racist management practices, they cut a lot of dancers of color, said Stanger.

Aaliyah Topps, who danced in Seattle, said she believed club managers and owners favored Caucasian strippers. I know multiple girls who arent allowed back to the club due to back rent and most of these are women of color. They dont advertise women of color on any flyers, posters or websites, she said.

Topps is part of a coalition called Strippers Are Workers, which formed in the summer of 2018 through the not-for-profit Working Washington. It was co-founded by the dancer Angelique, who declined to offer her last name. She works at one of the only clubs in Seattle that is not owned by Dj Vu, which runs roughly 132 strip clubs in 41 states. It owns 11 of Washingtons 14 strip clubs.

More and more customers were becoming aggressive, they were starting to not pay for services, said Angelique of why she started the coalition. [The clubs] were treating us like employees in terms of scheduling us, having control over our work and setting our prices, which is illegal.

The coalition took its complaints to the Washington legislature last October. Topps, who stripped at Dj Vu, testified about the lack of running water at the club, having to use a portable toilet as a restroom, harassment from management, and the $140 to $200 stage fees the dancers had to pay the club per night, which can quickly become back rent.

This May, Strippers Are Workers succeeded in getting House Bill 1756 passed. Its a landslide piece of legislation for the sex worker industry that requires Washington strip clubs to install panic buttons in VIP rooms; offers a Know Your Rights training for dancers who apply for a business license; creates a record and blacklist of violent customers; and establishes an advisory committee to help implement and enforce the bill.

The efforts in Washington echo another reform movement in Minneapolis. In August, its city council unanimously voted in a new ordinance that mandates adult entertainment workers receive a copy of their contracts, prohibits retaliation against those who report violations and requires businesses to post customer conduct and workers rights information.

Back in Portland, Nikeisah Newton knows the importance of lifting up those who are sidelined as a gay, black woman working for the sex worker industry: Its all about marginalized groups. Weve got to take care of each other.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/oct/29/portland-strippers-sex-workers-labor-rights-food

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‘Prostitution is seen as a leisure activity here’: tackling Spain’s sex traffickers | Annie Kelly

Its staggeringly big business in Spain, where demand is being met by traffickers. Can a groundbreaking team turn the tide?

On a sunny morning in Madrid, two young women duck down a side street, into a residential block and up to an apartment front door. Then they start knocking. Marcella and Maria spend a lot of time banging on doors and yelling through letterboxes all over the city. Most of the time, these doors never open. When they do, the two women could find themselves in trouble. Their job on the frontline of Spains fight against sex trafficking is a dangerous one; both have been assaulted and threatened. Yet they keep on knocking, because they have been on the other side of those doors, forced to sell their bodies for a handful of euros, dozens of times a day, seven days a week.

To say that prostitution is big business in Spain would be a gross understatement. The country has become known as the brothel of Europe, after a 2011 United Nations report cited Spain as the third biggest capital of prostitution in the world, behind Thailand and Puerto Rico. Although the Spanish Socialist party, which two weeks ago won another term in government, has promised to make it illegal to pay for sex, prostitution has boomed since it was decriminalised here in 1995. Recent estimates put revenue from Spains domestic sex trade at $26.5bn a year, with hundreds of licensed brothels and an estimated workforce of 300,000.

Supporters of decriminalisation claim it has brought benefits to those working in the trade, including making life safer for women. Yet this vastly profitable and largely unregulated market has also become infested with criminality, turning Spain into a global hub for human trafficking and sexual slavery.

Prostitution becomes sex trafficking when one person moves, detains or transports someone else for the purpose of profiting from their prostitution using fraud, force or coercion. In the UK, thousands of women are thought to be trapped in sexual servitude, but the scale of the problem in Spain is staggering. Until 2010, the law didnt even recognise human trafficking as a crime. Now the Spanish government estimates that up to 90% of women working in prostitution could be victims of trafficking or under the control of a third party such as a pimp who is profiting from them. Between 2012-2016, security forces in Spain rescued 5,695 people from slavery but acknowledge that thousands more remain under the control of criminals.

Since it passed its first anti-trafficking laws in 2010, the government has been scrambling to get on top of this crisis, spending millions of euros on an emergency plan to target the individuals and gangs operating with impunity. In 2015, it went further and created formal alliances between security forces, prosecutors, judges and NGOs, to rescue victims and prosecute the perpetrators. Survivors such as Maria and Marcella now find themselves playing a crucial part in bringing the battle to the criminals who once sold and exploited them. But can Spains new alliance of defenders really turn the tide against the traffickers?

***

I meet Maria and Marcella, both in their mid-20s, in the offices of Apramp, an organisation set up to protect, reintegrate and assist women in prostitution. Apramp helped them escape their traffickers, and they are now among its outreach workers. Their day job is to identify potential trafficking victims and try to offer them a way out. They find women they think might need help on the streets, in hostess clubs, and in some of the 400 residences they say are operating as informal brothels in Madrid.

Maria,
Maria, a trafficking survivor who helps others forced into prostitution. You dont have time to realise what has happened to you. Photograph: Ofelia de Pablo & Javier Zurita/The Guardian

Both shrug off the suggestion that they are brave. When Im wearing the Apramp vest at those apartments or on the streets, I dont feel scared, Marcella says. We know from our own experience theyre doing much worse things to the girls and women inside. So it only makes us more determined.

The two poised and eloquent young women, dressed like students in jeans and trainers, have lived through terrible things. Maria, petite and softly spoken, her brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, was brought to Spain from Romania by someone she trusted: she thought she was going on holiday with her new boyfriend. Instead, he drove her over the border using their EU residency cards and within 24 hours she was on the streets.

It just happens so fast, she says. Its difficult to describe how much you can be broken in such a short time. The shock and the trauma makes you go into survival mode. You dont have time to realise what has happened to you. She spent eight months being prostituted on street corners, in brothels and in strange apartments. Youre alive but youre not really existing, she says. Not one of the men who paid to sleep with me asked me if I was there out of choice, or whether I wanted to be doing this. They didnt care either way.

She was told by her pimp that she would have to pay off a debt of 20,000 before she could go home. With Romanian women, the traffickers threaten to kill your mother or your sister or your children if you dont pay off your debt, she says. People always ask, Why didnt you just run away or go to the police? but they dont know what theyre talking about. You cant just stop a random person on the street and ask for help, because someone you love could get killed. The police in Romania are often corrupt. You think, why should it be different here?

The promise of freedom in return for paying off the debt almost always turns out to be a lie. Maria says that, throughout her time under the control of the traffickers, she was hit with hundreds of tiny charges: shed have to pay for clothes, rent for the corner she worked, for condoms and sanitary towels. If she didnt bring back enough money, she wouldnt eat or shed be beaten.

Debt is invisible, Maria says. Its not a physical chain but it works the same way. She says some traffickers force women to get breast implants and even though the operation costs around 3,000, tell them they have to pay back 10,000. Marcella nods in agreement. She was trafficked from her native Brazil after applying to do a masters in Spain, a university course that turned out to be bogus. She was forced into prostitution immediately after she was collected from the airport. If Apramp hadnt found me, I think Id be dead by now, she says.

The fact that she not only survived but is now able to help others in the same situation has been an essential part of her recovery. The mafia take you and destroy your whole identity. Even now, youre recovering but you can never forget your past, she says. Doing this work really helps.

From
From left: Jos Nieto, Spains leading anti-trafficking law enforcement officer, Roco Mora, director of Apramp, which helps trafficked women, and prosecutor Beatriz Snchez.

Between them, Maria and Marcella have helped dozens of women and girls escape their traffickers. Its a process that takes months, sometimes years. Afterwards, Apramp finds the women somewhere safe to live, offers counselling and legal support, and helps them find work. We have to show them that their lives are worth living again, Marcella says.

Roco Mora, Apramps co-founder and director, sweeps into the room and embraces Maria and Marcella, who are about to start their afternoon shift. The only ones who really understand what we are facing are the survivors, she says. Tall and immaculately groomed, Mora is one of Spains best-known anti-trafficking advocates; her rage at what she sees happening on the streets is raw and visceral. What Spain is facing, she says, is a huge violation of the fundamental rights of women and girls; anyone labouring under the impression that the majority of women working in prostitution in Spain are doing so by choice is deluding themselves. The sex industry profits from the sale of women who are being controlled and exploited through debt, violence or psychological manipulation, she says. Our mobile unit has contact with 280 women a day and almost 100% are victims of exploitation and trafficking.

There are many reasons why Spain has become a hotspot, but for Mora, the biggest single factor is cultural. Spains sex trafficking epidemic is, she says, just the most extreme manifestation of the countrys problematic attitudes to women and sex. There is huge demand for prostitution here. Its become so normalised that its just seen like any other leisure activity.

One survey in 2008 found that 78% of Spanish people consider prostitution an inevitability in modern society. And demand is huge: another survey, conducted in 2006, found that nearly 40% of Spanish men over the age of 18 had paid for sex at least once in their life. Mora has recently seen a radical change in the kind of men buying sex. Before, it was largely older men sneaking away from their families. Now, both the women on the streets and the sex buyers themselves are getting younger. The social stigma isnt the same as it was when I started out, she says. We have a generation of young men growing up believing they have the right to do anything to a womans body if they have paid for it, and they dont have to worry about the consequences.

As a young girl, Mora watched her mother (also called Roco) start Apramp from their kitchen table. At 18, Mora was studying by day and driving a mobile health unit through Madrids red-light district by night.

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A club in a high-end neighbourhood of Madrid.

When my mother started this work, it was mainly getting health services to Spanish women who were engaged in prostitution to feed their families or a drug addiction, she says. Two decades ago, criminal gangs started to take hold. And it really was a radical change. There was suddenly a lot of violence and coercion men on the streets watching the women and taking their money.

Now, she says, most women in prostitution in Spain are foreigners: Apramp works with women of 53 different nationalities. And the gangs are more sophisticated and more ruthless. They no longer need men on the street, because they are controlling the women through debt, fear and psychological control. This is what makes it much harder to fight, because many dont see that they have a way out.

***

On Calle Montera, one of Madrids busiest shopping streets, eastern European or South American women stand alone or in small groups. Maria and Marcella point out that many of the women they help dont look like trafficking victims: it is easy for people to walk past them and not realise. Maria says many are also acting as human signposts, indicating that there are houses filled with other women nearby. When we get back to our car that evening, flyers have been stuck under our windscreen wipers offering a two-for-one deal on women for the special price of 30.

A short walk from Calle Montera is the HQ of the Centre of Intelligence and Risk Analysis, run by Spains national police. Jos Nieto is its chief inspector and Spains leading anti-trafficking law enforcement officer. As with Mora, anti-trafficking work has become Nietos vocation. He has spent more than 20 years trying to develop an effective police response to a human rights catastrophe that, until 2010, wasnt even included in Spains criminal code.

When I started in 1997, I was part of the brigade that believed all prostitutes did this work because they wanted to, he says. But its like an illness: at first you feel that something is wrong but you havent got a diagnosis. But as soon as you put a name to it, everything changes. You see it for what it really is.

He explains the myriad reasons why Spain has become such a magnet for sex trafficking networks; a perfect storm, he calls it. First, we are fighting a crime that is socially acceptable, because prostitution is accepted and embraced by many people here. Second there is geography: We are at the centre of all major migratory routes. The main victims we are seeing trafficked and forced into prostitution are Romanian, West African and South American. You can cross from Romania to Spain with an ID card. Africa is just 15km from us. We have a historic and a linguistic connection to South America.

As in many countries, a prosecution is almost impossible without a victim willing to disclose their situation and testify against their exploiters. There is great fear among victims that if they tell the police, they will be sent back to their countries with their debts unpaid, Nieto says. It makes policing very difficult; if the women dont ask for help, there is a limit to what you can do. Here in Spain, prostitution itself isnt illegal, running a brothel isnt illegal, so you have to prove that what is going on is more than meets the eye.

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A sex worker takes a break in Colonia Marconi. There is huge demand for prostitution here. Its become so normalised.

That evening, Nieto, the Guardian photographers and I join an undercover police unit conducting inspections of private clubs in Barrio de Salamanca, one of Madrids most high-end neighbourhoods. Although the police have all undertaken anti-trafficking training, their main job tonight seems to be restricted to checking ID and carting any woman found to be working illegally off to the police station.

At our first location there is a short period of confusion as our two unmarked cars drive up and down the street trying to find a parking space. By the time we enter, the music is already off and the club deserted other than four women sitting silently on bar stools clutching their ID cards and a manager conspicuously cleaning glasses behind the bar. None of them is Spanish. The women all appear to be here on student visas, and shake their heads when the police chief asks them if they need help. There is no evidence that these women are victims of trafficking, but it seems ludicrous to expect anyone to disclose anything in this environment.

At other clubs, a few women who dont have the right ID are loaded into a van. In one, three very young Chinese women sit silent and apparently terrified in their underwear on a cracked fake leather banquette, while police check the damp and dirty premises. A lone punter, a sweaty Spanish man in his 20s, is ejected from a bedroom at the back; outside another, a sexy nurse uniform hangs on a hook. The women keep their eyes fixed on the thickset Chinese man behind the bar as he chats easily to the police and shows them his licence. As we leave, the heavy metal door slams shut with a thud, leaving the women inside. One of the officers runs a hand over his face and exhales. Dios mo, he says. My God.

Yet Nieto believes there is hope and says the new strategy of creating formal alliances between police, prosecutors and frontline services is putting more pressure on criminal gangs. In particular, he cites coordination with Apramps Mora: With her help, were making connections with survivors, were following the money and sending people away. Were making the traffickers understand that the Spanish police are something to fear.

Uniforms
Uniforms in a Chinese brothel. In Spain, prostitution isnt illegal.

Nieto has been working with prosecutor Beatriz Snchez for the past decade. Since 2010 the formidable Spanish lawyer has overseen more than 100 trafficking cases; in 2012, she succeeded in sending Ioan Clamparu, the capo of the biggest prostitution trafficking ring in Europe, to prison for 30 years. She is upbeat, funny and warm, but steely in her determination. Weve made huge advances in prosecuting and convicting human traffickers, she says. But many cases get dismissed or dont go to trial. Snchez says only one-tenth of the trafficking cases she takes on make it to court because the burden of proof is high, requiring witness statements and months of police work. Often cases are organised and transnational, involving the movement of huge amounts of money. They are complex crimes that are difficult to dismantle. Under Spanish laws, you need proof of the use of extreme violence and intimidation to prosecute cases of pimping and coercion. All forms of pimping need to be criminally punishable, she says. Only then can we effectively stop human trafficking.

Snchez says her natural optimism can be blunted by the uphill struggle to get cases to trial. It would be hard if I was doing this alone, but the good thing is I have Roco and Jos were a team, she says. So when you are down and feel like things are hopeless, you have a reason to carry on. The others can pick you up and say: Come on! We must keep going! Snchez keeps in touch with all the women she represents. Seeing them rebuild their lives is as satisfying as seeing their abusers go to prison, she says.

***

We visit one of Snchezs former clients, Helena, at the offices of Proyecto Esperanza (Project Hope), the NGO that has supported her through her court case. Her family is from Ecuador but she was living on the outskirts of Madrid, with a Spanish passport, when she was forced into prostitution in her own neighbourhood five years ago, after falling victim to fraudsters who lent her money. They threatened to kill her small children if she didnt work as a prostitute to pay it back. When I was in that situation I didnt see a way out, and the longer I did it, the more I died inside, she says.

It took years, but in the end her traffickers were sent to prison and Helena was awarded landmark compensation of 100,000 by the state, 92,000 of which was estimated to be what her traffickers had earned from the sale of her body. She is yet to see any of this money, and her debts to family and neighbours remain unpaid. I still owe 12,000 to friends and family from that time in my life, and I have no idea how to pay it, she says. But for now she is surviving. Proyecto Esperanza is helping her find a job and providing counselling. She has a home and is rebuilding her relationship with her children. Despite her experiences, she is trying to teach them that the world can be a good place.

Helena praises Snchez for giving her the courage to do this. Beatriz was always so positive and strong at a time when I didnt believe in myself at all, she says softly. Now I am trying to learn to love myself again. And thats what I want to teach my kids that no matter what other people do to you, it is important to love yourself and to look ahead. That in every terrible situation there can be a light at the end of the tunnel a way out of the darkness.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/may/11/prostitution-tackling-spain-sex-traffickers

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Migrants are more profitable than drugs: how the mafia infiltrated Italys asylum system

The long read: Crime families have cashed in on the refugee industry

Joy, a young Nigerian woman, was standing in the street outside the sprawling, overcrowded Cara di Mineo reception centre for asylum seekers in central Sicily, waiting for someone to pick her up when I met her. It was late summer 2016, and the weather was still hot. She said she was 18, but looked much younger. She was wearing a faded denim jacket over a crisp white T-shirt and tight jeans, and six or seven strings of colourful beads were wrapped around her neck. A gold chain hung from her left wrist, a gift from her mother.

As we spoke, a dark car came into view and she took a couple of steps away from me to make sure whoever was driving saw her, and saw that she was alone. There were a handful of other migrants loitering along the road. The approaching car didnt slow down, so Joy came back over to me and carried on our conversation.

The oldest of six children, Joy (not her real name) told me she had left her family in a small village in Edo state in Nigeria at the age of 15, and gone to work for a wealthy woman who owned a beauty salon in Benin City. She had since come to suspect that her parents had sold her to raise money for their younger children. They probably had no choice, she said as she looked down the road toward the thick citrus groves that hid the coming traffic.

There were six other girls who worked for the woman, whom Joy said they called their maman, meaning mother. When Joy turned 16, she went through a ceremony that bound her to the mamanby a curse: if she disobeyed the maman, her family would die. A few weeks later, she was told she was moving to Italy, where she would work for her mamans sister. She believed she would be working in a hair salon. She was given 45 (40) and a phone number to call once she got to Italy but no name, no address, and no documents.

Joys new life would turn out to be nothing like what she had expected. Instead of working for a hairdresser, she fell into the trap set by traffickers who lure women into slavery and prostitution. More than 80% of women brought to Europe from Nigeria are unknowingly sponsored by sex traffickers who have paid for their journey, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The rest will have paid the smugglers to get them to Europe, but once they get there, will be unlikely to escape the sex-trafficking rings.

After an appalling journey, via Tripoli, which took nearly three weeks, Joy arrived at the port of Augusta on Sicilys east coast. She had no papers or passport. All she had was an Italian phone number, which her maman had stitched into the sleeve of her jacket. When the migrants got off the boat, an armed military policeman in a bulletproof vest stood guard as another patted them down and took knives from some of the men. Those with documents were taken to a large tent lined with army cots. One woman handed out shoes and flip-flops, and another gave them bruised yellow apples from a large metal tub. An officer used a black marker pen to write a number on the migrants left hands. Joy was number 323.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/feb/01/migrants-more-profitable-than-drugs-how-mafia-infiltrated-italy-asylum-system

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