The rate of human trafficking especially for the purpose of using them for prostitution is on the increase with some Nigerian ladies stuck in Russia after World Cup narrating their tales.
One of the ladies, Blessing Obuson, thought she could secure a job in Russia due to the football showpiece by fleeing on arrival with her fan ID still intact.
Instead, she found herself forced to work as a prostitute.
Fan IDs allowed visa-free entry to World Cup supporters with match tickets but did not confer the right to work.
That didn’t deter Obuson, 19, who hoped to work as a shop assistant to provide for her 2-year-old daughter and younger siblings back in Nigeria’s Edo state.
Instead, she said she was locked in a flat on the outskirts of Moscow and forced into sex work along with 11 other Nigerian women who were supervised by a madam, also from Nigeria.
“I cried really hard. But what choice did I have?”, Obuson told the media after being freed by anti-slavery activists.
She said her madam had confiscated her passport and told her she’d only get it back once she’d worked off a fictional debt of $50,000 (£38,053).
Obuson told her story to a rare English-speaking client who got anti-slavery activists involved.
Two Nigerians were later arrested and charged with human trafficking after striking a deal to sell Obuson for 2 million roubles (around $30,000) to a police officer posing as a client, according to her lawyer.
The case is still under investigation.
Obuson’s case is not the only one.
Undercover investigators met eight Nigerian women aged between 16 and 22 brought into Russia on fan IDs and forced into sex work. All said they had endured violence.
“They don’t give you food for days, they slap you, they beat you, they spit in your face… It’s like a cage,” said one 21-year old woman, who declined to be named.
Russian police say 1,863 Nigerians who entered the country with fan IDs had not left by January 1, the date when the IDs expired.
Kenny Kehindo, who works with several Moscow NGOs to help sex trafficking victims, estimates that more than 2,000 Nigerian women were brought in on fan IDs.
“Many are still in slavery,” said Kehindo, who said he had helped around 40 women return to Nigeria.