Every night besides the town hall of Athens, next to Omonia square, where the narrow streets of the popular entertainment hub district Psirris begin, black girls from Nigeria gather to work.
Dressed provocatively, they approach people who pass by and offer their services. “Come on baby I know you want me”, you hear one say playfully with a big smile on her face. Or is it a mask she wears?
The beautiful young Nigerians, between 20 and 25 years old, are victims of trafficking, forced to prostitute themselves for little money.
“Everyone knows that. The young Athenians who gather in Psirris to have fun; the policemen who casually drive through the area to keep an eye on things; the mayor of Athens; most of all the ‘customers’,” says resident Miltiadis Papathomopoulos, as he stares at the girls, and the people walking by.
Nigerian girls appeared on the steers of Athens during the Olympic Games. They never left. Nobody knew where they came from, and no one particularly wanted to. Until Dina Daskalopoulou, a journalist working on social issues, thought that this could not go on.
“I did it for two reasons,” she told IPS, talking of her decision to start investigating the issue. “First, because everybody, citizens and officials, had an attitude that ‘these things happen, nobody can stop them’. And then because anyone I talked with insisted that no one can really go out there and tell this story.”
Her story, put together after six months work, circulated Mar. 24 in Eleftherotipia, a big national daily. She found that the girls come from Edo region in Nigeria, a place which regularly provides people to global slave labour networks.
The girls are sold for a couple of thousand euros by their families, or they are lured by traffickers with promise of a better life. There are an estimated 50,000 girls from there being sexually exploited around Europe.
Most transit through Italy. They are charged up to 40,000 euros for the trip, and they are then forced into prostitution to pay their debt. Several of the women have said that traffickers, most often Nigerians, use tribal voodoo superstition to persuade the girls that if they escape or speak up, they and their families will suffer.