As Prime Minister Theresa May visits Nigeria today, she is expected to announce new measures to address unsafe migration to Europe from West Africa and support for Nigerian victims of modern slavery.
Specifically, this includes support for migrants and victims of modern slavery to rebuild their lives, assistance to prevent cross-border trafficking between Nigeria and Niger, and a border task force at Nigeria’s Lagos airport.
Nigeria ranks fifth globally in terms of the number of its citizens trafficked to the UK, affecting men, women, and children who are sex trafficked or exploited for forced labor.
As PM May noted, “Today we are stepping up our partnership with Nigerian authorities to find traffickers and bring them to justice. And because this is an international problem which needs international response, we are also launching a new project with France to strengthen border cooperation to prevent trafficking along key migration routes towards Libya and Europe.”
A press release from gov.uk explains that aid will go towards three areas:
Support to help up to 1,700 migrants and modern slavery victims returning to Nigeria from Libya with counselling to deal with the distress of their ordeal and training in business and vocational skills to help them get jobs and reintegrate into their communities.
Most of these victims have suffered serious trauma and are at high risk of re-trafficking and psychosocial issues without this crucial UK support, delivered in partnership with the International Organisation of Migration.
A new project – led by the UK and France – to help the governments of Nigeria and Niger strengthen their border cooperation to prevent trafficking along one of the main migration routes towards Libya and Europe.
The project will ensure border posts are better equipped and staffed, enhance training for border officials, and work with NGOs to help victims of trafficking return home.
The UK-funded headquarters of the Joint Border Task Force has been established at Lagos airport, where UK and Nigerian authorities have been working together to identify traffickers and bring them to justice.
This year the Task Force helped secure the first prosecution of a British national for trafficking under the UK Modern Slavery Act, with Josephine Iyamu jailed for 14 years in Birmingham in July.
May emphasized that support for victims was essential to prevent them from being re-trafficked.
“As well as targeting the smugglers and traffickers that cruelly exploit people for financial gain, it’s vital that we support the victims who have suffered enormous trauma and are at high risk of being re-trafficked, and that is an important part of the support we are announcing today,” she said.
So far 68 countries around the world, including Nigeria, have endorsed PM May’s Call to Action to end forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking, which she launched at the UN in 2017.