Nigerian girls who were trafficked into India are safely back home

Beth and Elsy, young Nigerian women, jumped at a chance when they were offered jobs and promised a passport, visa, flight ticket to India and safe accommodation to take on their jobs.

They hopped onto the plane hoping to earn decent money and support their struggling families at home.

“Life was tough at home. We were both excited to travel. Our families needed money and we thought it was a good opportunity to help them as well as start our new lives”, Beth said. 

They thought their jobs were to help some families with their household chores but their new employers had new ideas. 

After a 15-hour flight from Lagos to New Delhi, their dreams crumbled as they entered the house of a ‘Madam’, a Nigerian woman in the trafficking trade. Beth and Elsy were informed that they owed INR 5 crores calculated as a total cost of their travel to India. They became under the Madam's control and were forced to do what they were told. 

Madams are the main actors in exploitation. They force girls into prostitution and ask for money to repay their debt. They also work with ‘brothers’, men in charge of physically trafficking the girls from Nigeria into India. 

Beth and Elsy were assigned tasks immediately. 

Elsy was told to wear revealing clothes, put on heavy make-up and walk in glittery stiletto heels. She was forced into a room. A man entered the room and raped her brutally. 

Beth received specific instructions from Madam in a sharp and curt tone on how to cook and clean and be ready. Beth was in utter shock and resisted her assigned duties, which earned her a scolding and beating from Madam – and she was raped too.

That was the day the young women’s lives as sex slaves began. 

Day after day, the ‘working’ hours lengthened and the abuse became brutal. 

“Life was devastating and we had no way to escape. The house was always guarded by some men or the other who worked for Madam,” Elsy explained. 

Beth and Elsy were caught in the trap for two years until Beth came across a social media post about the rescue operation of three young Nigerian girls, assisted by VIHAAN on NAPTIP's social media account. NAPTIP, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons is an agency in Nigeria to address the scourge of trafficking in persons. She gathered courage and contacted NAPTIP who gave VIHAAN’s contact number. 

“I realised that the only way is to find someone who would help us”, said Beth after the rescue. 

VIHAAN passed on the information to the Delhi police and Anti Human Trafficking Unit and assisted in the rescue operation. They were rescued on 7 February 2022. After the formalities and medical examination, we ensured that Beth and Elsy were safely admitted to state shelter homes. 

Our counsellor and social worker made frequent visits to meet Beth and Elsy. It took a few weeks for our team to gain their trust. Slowly, we built rapport, learnt about the intensity of the exploitation and tailored the counselling techniques to help them process the psychological impact. Throughout the sessions, we ensured that Beth and Elsy felt that they were in charge of their situation, and we were there to guide them. 

We believe that victims must be heard in the court and it is equally important that victims feel protected and that their rights are respected throughout the proceedings. 

From talking to our lawyers, Beth and Elsy understood that their share of voice in the court has the power to protect young girls and women in Nigeria being trafficked into India, they came forward and testified against their traffickers. Their brave witness statements, supported by strong arguments from our lawyers led to the arrest of traffickers, including the kingpin of the widespread criminal network – the trafficking of children and young women from Nigeria to India. 

Our lawyers did not stop here. By presenting strong evidence, Beth and Elsy received victim compensation of INR 2,00,000 each as cash cards. This was the first time for the Indian court to offer victim compensation to foreign nationals. And, secured a repatriation order as well. 

While Beth and Elsy continue to receive care and support from VIHAAN’s team, we had discussions with the Nigerian High Commission in New Delhi for the issuance of an emergency travel certificate. An emergency travel certificate is a valid travel document for a one-way journey to Nigeria, issued to stranded Nigerians abroad who do not have the appropriate documents to travel back home.

We received a heartfelt message from Beth and Elsy that they are happy to be reunited with their families. 

It is because of you! When we asked for your support to purchase their flight tickets to Nigeria, we are blown away by your kindness and generosity. Your thoughtful actions have touched our hearts in ways that words cannot describe. 

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