1,098 victims of trafficking deported in three years

Two hundred victims of human trafficking were deported to Nigeria last week, bringing to 1,098 the number sent back from Europe and North America in the past three years, figures released on Wednesday by the Nigerian immigration authorities showed.

More than 98 percent or 1,081 were women who had been sold to prostitution rings in the different countries. Only 17 of the victims were male.

The highest figure recorded for deportees from one country was 331 for Italy, followed by 302 sent back from Spain. The rest were from Germany, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and the United States.

A senior official of the Nigerian Immigration Services said despite efforts to check the illegal traffic, the criminal rings had devised very sophisticated methods of continuing what apparently was a very lucrative trade for them.

"We have set up a special squad devoted to tracking down the operators of the rings in order stop the flow of their victims across our borders," the official told IRIN.

The News Agency of Nigeria on Monday reported Mike Mku, Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Human Trafficking and Child Labour, as saying that 90 percent of foreign prostitutes in Italy were from Nigeria. He said the situation, which was the result of a combination of "poverty and greed", was of serious concern to the Nigerian authorities.

According to Mku, efforts to combat the trafficking of women from Nigeria were being hampered by the absence of an enabling law. A bill prescribing more stringent punishments was currently being pushed through parliament, he said.

"For now, when we arrest we just try to get some relevant part of the penal code to prosecute offenders, but the punishment is not always commensurate with the crime and this encourages them to continue," he was quoted as saying.