Princess, a life helping victims of sex trafficking
My photography serie focuses on West African women who, having arrived in Italy as refugees, are forced into the sex trade. The majority of these women are from Benin city, Edo State, in southern Nigeria. Poverty in Nigeria has forced many families to traffic one or more family members abroad. Traffickers often make false promises of legitimate work outside the country with victims unaware of the life awaiting them.
Several of my photos focus on Princess, a Nigerian woman and former victim of sex trafficking. Princess arrived in Italy in 1999, lure by the promise of work as a chef. After arriving in Italy the traffickers demanded 45,000 euros to pay off her debt for the arranged journey. Princess was forced into prostitution. After eight months working the streets of Turin she managed to pay off her debt with the help of a priest and Alberto Mossino, an Italian man who would become her partner and husband.
Debts range between 45,000 and 60,000 euros. If Nigerian victims are uncooperative, the trafficker employs a mixture of violence and animist religious threats (traditional curses and spells). The Nigerian trafficking is organized primarily by women. The traffickers will provide travel documents, transportation, and facilitate the contact of the Madams in the destination country. Many of the traffickers have themselves been trafficking victims.
Princess decided to stay in Italy and, after denouncing her madam, she managed to get a resident permit. She then decided to help other victims of trafficking who were arriving in Italy. In 1999 PIAM Onlus Ngo was founded by Alberto Mossino with the aim to help women involved in trafficking and overcome prostitution. Asylum Seekers and victims of sex trafficking are entering the SPRAR programmes (System for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees) set up by the Italian government in 2002 to help migrants. This involves helping them to acquire accommodation, food, work, education and integration within the Italian society.