African Slave Trading Update: Nigeria Finds 45,000 Slaves Sold to Mali

The Nigerian government’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has announced that it has found at least 45,000 of its citizens who were captured by slave traders and sold into slavery in the west African state of Mali.

According to NAPTIP Director General Julie Okah-Donli, the slaves—all females—mostly came from rural areas of six different states in Nigeria.

“They were tricked into going to Mali by giving them the impression they were going to get jobs in hotels, for example,” Okah-Donli told Al Jazeera. “Some were actually abducted while going to school.

“There are over one million Nigerian residents in Mali, out of which about 20,000 are trapped into forced prostitution. The conditions are horrible. They are kept in the thick of the forest where they cannot escape and with the ‘madames’ watching over them.”

According to the latest Trafficking in Persons Report 2018, issued by the US State Department, Nigeria is a “source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and a source country for men subjected to forced labor.”

The report says that “Women and girls are victims of domestic servitude and sex trafficking, and boys are victims of forced and bonded labor in street vending, domestic service, mining, stone quarrying, agriculture, textile manufacturing, and begging. The government estimates as many as 9.5 million young boys studying in Quranic schools, commonly known as Almajiri, are subjected to forced begging.”

The report revealed that the slave traders operate “baby factories”—“often disguised as orphanages, maternity homes, or religious centers—where traffickers hold women against their will, rape them, and force them to carry and deliver a child.

“The traffickers sell the children, sometimes with the intent to exploit them in forced labor and sex trafficking.”

In addition, “Nigerian traffickers take women and children to other West and Central African countries— including Mali, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, and Cabo Verde—as well as to South Africa, where they are exploited in forced labor and sex trafficking.

“Nigerian women and children are recruited and transported to destinations in North Africa, the Middle East—including Saudi Arabia, Oman, and United Arab Emirates—and Central Asia, and held captive in commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor.”

Authorities identified Nigerian trafficking victims—often exploited by Nigerian traffickers—in at least 40 countries during the reporting period.”

“Despite persistent and egregious reports of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses, the government made negligible efforts to address the allegations, and the military generally denied such allegations without investigation,” the report said.

With regard to Mali, the US State Department report said that that African state was also a “source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.”

In that country, “internal trafficking is more prevalent than transnational trafficking. Boys from Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso are subjected to forced labor in agriculture— especially rice production—artisanal gold mines, domestic work, transportation, begging, and the informal commercial sector.

“Malian boys are also forced to beg or perform agricultural work by unscrupulous Quranic teachers in neighboring countries, including Senegal and Guinea. Some members of Mali’s black Tuareg community are subjected to slavery practices rooted in traditional relationships of hereditary servitude.

“Men and boys, primarily of Songhai ethnicity, were subjected to a longstanding practice of debt bondage in the salt mines of Taoudeni in northern Mali.”

“Women and girls from other West African countries, particularly Nigeria and Benin, are recruited with promises of jobs as nurses or waitresses in Bamako but exploited in sex trafficking throughout Mali, including in Chinese-run hotels and especially in small mining communities. “Reports allege corruption and complicity among local police and gendarmes in Farako may have facilitated forced labor and sex trafficking in mining communities.”

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