Are any Nigerians white?

Nigerian mafiaHuman trafficking in the middle of Germany

The Vulkanstrasse in Duisburg. One of the largest red light districts in Germany with a number of brothels extends here and in the vicinity. More and more women from Nigeria are ending up here and in the red-light districts of other German cities. Most of them were smuggled in by Nigerian human traffickers, says Barbara Wellner of Solwodi, an organization that helps victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution.

“The typical story of a young Nigerian woman is actually that she is a girl or a young woman, usually from a precarious background. Often they were barely able to go to school, with their parents on a small farm or on a market stall at a very early age had to work, often girls who have only one parent or no parents. "

This is what happened to Anna, who does not want to be recognized. She lived with her mother and siblings in Nigeria in her grandmother's house, was only able to attend school for four years and then had to work in the fields.

"When I was 16 years old, the family decided that I should be circumcised. I didn't want to, I was scared and refused. My mother beat me because I didn't want to follow tradition. I saw no other option, the circumcision to escape than to run away. I no longer had a home, so I was walking around in the street looking for help. "

Widely branched network with many stations

It is precisely these girls that Nigerian traffickers target. One of the most lucrative business models in organized crime.

The contact persons are often women, often even relatives, explains Barbara Wellner. Usually they work on behalf of other Nigerians who control the business in the destination country.

"These are the Madames. The network of people who have to do with this human trafficking, that is, with the path from the first contact in Nigeria to the girl working somewhere in the third brothel here in Oberhausen, is really an extensive one Network with a lot of stations, but the focus is actually on the so-called Madames - female pimps. "

(Deutschlandradio / Jan-Christoph Kitzler) End of the line prostitution - young migrant women in Italy
They are fleeing war, violence and oppression and dream of a better life for themselves and their families: young migrants, mainly from Libya and Nigeria. But hardly having arrived in Europe, there is only one destination for many of the young women: the hell of prostitution.

Already in Nigeria it is made clear to the young women that their trip will cost a lot of money that they will have to pay back later - but that is not a problem because they would have a good job. To reinforce the agreement to repay the money, the women are cast in a juju spell.

"For our imagination, this is really a martial ritual. Juju is something that we sometimes know here from the past under the term Voodoo. A priest swears an oath from the girl in a special place in connection with rituals such as the slaughter of animals , Drinking animal blood, drinking other strange fluids, eating raw animal entrails. "

Women are threatened that if they fail to pay their debts or reveal any of the agreements, they or their relatives will die or get sick or something bad will happen.

The number of victims in Germany is increasing

In January, the Duisburg district court passed several judgments for human trafficking and forced prostitution involving Nigerian women. One woman, one of the Nigerian Madames, was sentenced to five years in prison. The German authorities have become more vigilant. According to a Spiegel report in an unofficial paper at the beginning of the year, the BND warned against an increase in the quotation: "Extremely brutal Nigerian organized crime structures."

And the recently published "Federal Situation Report" Human Trafficking and Exploitation "2018" by the Federal Criminal Police Office states:

"The number of identified victims with Nigerian citizenship rose significantly in 2018 to 61 people [...], thus continuing the (rising) trend identified in the previous year."

According to the BKA, the number of Nigerian suspects also increased compared to 2017 by 41.4 percent.

At the international level, Germany has been participating in the EU project "ETUTU" since 2012. The EU states, in coordination with Nigeria, are taking measures against internationally operating Nigerian networks of perpetrators in the area of ​​human trafficking.

Martyrdom usually begins in Italy

The example of Italy shows how important it is to take a cross-border perspective. This is where most Nigerians step on European soil for the first time.

(picture-alliance / dpa / Osservatore Romano) Prostitution in Italy - Catholics for brothels
Brothels are banned in Italy. Many prostitutes are left with only street prostitution, where they are defenselessly exposed to criminals. The situation has reached dramatic proportions. Now not only political parties are calling for a legal reform, but also parts of the Catholic Church.

In the Sicilian port city of Catania, a group of young Nigerian women has gathered in the large kitchen of Casa Agata. With great concentration, they process huge quantities of pasta dough to make spaghetti, tagliatelle and ravioli.

Helen Okoro came to Italy more than twenty years ago. Just like the young women who are trained here as cooks, she too fell into the hands of human traffickers. But the Nigerian managed to escape to a Catholic women's shelter. Today Helen Okoro works as a consultant in the facility. She has seen first hand how human trafficking has changed in recent years. So many women are now asking for help here that the employees can barely cope with the rush.

"I used to go home at four o'clock in the afternoon. But for some time - since around 2015 - I haven't even looked at my watch. Sometimes I sleep here when the situation demands it."

Well over 20,000 Nigerian women - many of them minors - have come to Italy across the Mediterranean in the past three years. The United Nations estimates that around 80 percent of them are victims of human trafficking or are in acute danger of being victims.

Little chance of a successful asylum procedure

Specifically, this means that they are sexually exploited or have to use forced prostitution. And even the 20 percent who do not get caught up in the clutches of human traffickers and make it to Europe have little chance of a successful asylum procedure. According to the current statistics from Pro Asyl, the recognition rates for the countries of origin in Africa are almost exclusively in the single-digit range.

What really worries Helen Okoro is how much more brutal the business has become.

"Sometimes I get scared myself. You see that high fence over there in front of the window? We used to not need fences here."

Experts estimate that a forced prostitute earns 55,000 euros per year - and more and more criminal groups want to earn money from the business. Until a few years ago, the Madames' networks were rather small, relatively loose connections. Often all those involved came from the wider family environment. In the meantime, according to Helen, more professional - and significantly more unscrupulous - criminal networks have formed. They also did not shy away from violence in the Nigerian homeland of women.

"They are well organized and some of the backers have a lot of money. They have their people who go to the families of the women and beat them up. They also often burn down the families' houses."

Authorities do not recognize mafia-like structures

This creates a wall of silence. A problem that Dario de Luca is also familiar with. He works as an investigative journalist for the Sicilian newspaper 'MeridioNews' and has made a name for himself across the island's borders in international research projects on organized crime, for example for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a network of journalists from different countries. In front of him lie hundreds of pages of investigation files from the Sicilian public prosecutor's office. They show photos of several Nigerians under observation who gather for a meeting in the small town of Caltanissetta in the hinterland of Sicily. According to the journalist, it is remarkable how much the images are reminiscent of classic gatherings of the Sicilian Mafia, the Cosa Nostra. And similar to the Nigerian groups of today, 30 or 40 years ago no one understood the structures of the local mafia.

"Back then, people were more likely to speak of individual 'criminal groups'. In truth, these groups were already well organized back then. However, it took many murders and other acts before the prosecutors and the public realized that we were dealing with excellently networked criminals . "

That is why some people from Sicily speak of the "New Mafia" or the "Mafia Nigeriana". According to Dario de Luca's research, there is currently a kind of ceasefire between the criminal organizations based on two principles: Traditionally, human trafficking is something that the Cosa Nostra are reluctant to get their own hands on. When it comes to other criminal activities, Nigerians know their limits.

"There is obviously some form of peaceful coexistence. The Nigerian Mafia has spread to popular migrant districts like Ballarò and San Berillo, often with Gambian dealers. The Sicilian Mafia, on the other hand, continues to rule the business in their traditional districts. There was mine Never know a real conflict so far. "

Brutal, transnational criminal networks

A criminal organization in which not only the perpetrators, but also the victims come from abroad and live on the margins of society. This is the reason why the Italian authorities have so far shown little effort to penetrate the structures of the "New Mafia".

Prosecutor Lina Trovato does not want to let this accusation sit on her. The phenomenon of organized crime in Nigeria has been observed for a very long time, said Trovato. It has not only existed for a few years since thousands of refugees from Africa made their way to Europe. The prosecutor doesn't like the term "new mafia" either. The famous Italian Mafia Paragraph 416 has already been used by Nigerian groups as a "non-local" Mafia - for the first time in the history of Italy: 2010 in a trial in Turin and 2017 in a trial in Palermo. However, the so-called "New Mafia" from Nigeria is not a unit, but rather consists of a large number of individual secret societies and criminal gangs, such as the Black Ax, the Vikings and the Supreme Eiye Brotherhood, as they call themselves.

"A mafia has to be in full control of a place so that everyone in that place is afraid and does what the mafia representative says. It's difficult to apply this category to the secret gangs from Nigeria. They are not in control over a certain place - but they at least have control over a certain community, an ethnic community. So we have to interpret the law differently here. But the ultimate goal is the same: We have to find out if people are afraid and to focus on a certain one Kind of behave because they are suppressed. "

You are dealing with brutal, transnational criminal networks, according to Trovato. And although there are suitable framework conditions for cross-border cooperation, this can still be expanded in everyday investigative work.

(picture-alliance / Roman Vondrous) Research in the red light milieu - "That got the prostitute completely out of her routine"
The author Nora Bossong researched sex cinemas, brothels and swinger clubs for her new book "Rotlicht". The "mechanical form of sex life" that she encountered there is aimed primarily at men. As a woman, she irritated people in the red light district.

Important educational work in Lagos

The Nigerian Authority for the Prevention of Human Trafficking, NAPTIP, is located in the middle of a busy business district in Lagos. Here, too, in the West African megacity more than 4,000 kilometers south of Sicily, the increasing brutality of the human trafficking gangs is observed with concern.

Daniel Atokolo, the regional head of the authority, sees this as a paradoxical effect of the previous success in the fight against sexual exploitation. Much educational work has been done in recent years. Even the so-called Oba of Benin, the traditional head of the region, from which more than three quarters of the women affected come, is now taking action against the abuse of the juju belief for the purpose of human trafficking. He had declared all juju oaths pronounced for the purpose of sexual exploitation to be ineffective. This deprives the Madames of an important means of psychological control over their victims. And the secret societies that have recently been referred to as the Nigerian Mafia in Europe are now increasingly penetrating this gap.

"These guys are no longer concerned with psychological conditioning with any oaths. That is just sheer terror. So there is a clear connection between the withdrawal of the juju oaths and the increased occurrence of these gangs, which force the victims to absolute obedience."

It is not just that members of the criminal organizations offer the madames their brutal services. They partially take over the whole business. While there used to be a few rules in spite of all the cruelty, such as the possibility for women to become madame after paying off their debts, now it is only about endless exploitation.

Politicians and business people as part of criminal networks

There are now more than 50 different secret societies in Nigeria. Even influential politicians and business people are said to be among its members. Little is known about their internal structures. Only that the origins of some of these groups go back to the time of the African independence movements of the 50s and 60s, when secret, politically active student associations were founded at many universities in the country. But in Nigeria's political chaos, important posts in the strict hierarchy of secret groups were quickly infiltrated by criminal elements. At the same time, more and more young, violent men were recruited from the streets for lower positions.

John Omoruan sits relaxed in the lobby of an upscale business hotel in Lagos. Despite all the dangers, the dropout decided to talk about the inner workings of the secret societies. The only condition for the interview: no names of people. For many years, Omoruan was a high-ranking member of one of the most notorious secret organizations: the Black Ax.

For him, the group's drift into organized crime began when some wealthy Nigerians discovered the smuggling of marijuana into Europe for themselves in the late 1980s. They infiltrated the Black Ax because they found exactly the right structures for their criminal business here: a clear hierarchical order and absolute secrecy. Since then, the organizations have become more and more unscrupulous - but not much has changed in their principle.

"You have to adapt. Today we make the money with young girls and cocaine. The necessary structures are there. Follow the instructions. That is the highest law."

"Europe is hungry for forbidden things"

Omoruan pretends to be purified - he regrets many of his actions. Nonetheless, when it comes to human trafficking, he sees a significant part of the blame with Europeans. They are the ones who want ever cheaper and ever younger girls.

"In the end it's all about the money. Europe is hungry. Hungry for forbidden things. Drugs, underage girls, everything forbidden. And Nigeria has just the right offer for it. As long as their goods are in demand, the black ax and all the others Secret groups continue to have success and make lots of money. "

The German author Sandro Mattioni, who has been dealing with the mafia for years and is chairman of the "Mafia? No thanks!" is. As long as there is demand in Germany for drugs and prostitutes, whom clients often know to be forced prostitutes, organized crime simply has a market. He also registers that the Nigerian Mafia in Germany has grown in recent years.

Compared to other organized crime groups, however, it is not yet as strong as, for example, Russian-Eurasian organized crime or the classic Italian mafia organizations. In order to prevent further spread, it is important for politics and security authorities to act decisively, says Mattioni.

"Unfortunately, our state is very careless in dealing with organized crime. We have significant loopholes in the law that are very dangerous, especially when it comes to money laundering."

Gaps in the German fight against OC

A woman accused of human trafficking and pimping is sitting in the hall of the Braunschweig Regional Court in June 2019. She is accused of renting apartments for forced prostitutes from Nigeria all over Germany. (dpa / Peter Steffen)

These are gray areas that make countries like Germany attractive for organized crime, including that from Nigeria. It is true that there are always selective successes. In 2016, for example, a high-ranking member of a Nigerian mafia was arrested in North Rhine-Westphalia. With the help of Spanish investigators, the group was able to prove that they had smuggled compatriots into Germany on a large scale - with forged IDs and with more than 4,000 train tickets that they had obtained with stolen credit card details.

Nevertheless, the existing opportunities for cooperation at European and international level are still not being used consistently. There are the EU agencies Europol and Eurojust and numerous bilateral agreements to combat crime - including with Nigeria. Often, so officials in the police and judiciary complain behind closed doors, things fail because of supposed banalities such as a lack of language skills on the part of employees or a lack of budgets for business trips.

"If a state takes action against organized crime on a broad level, then this state is not attractive for such groups. And there are different levels at which one can fight organized crime. And ideally one fights it at all levels - from the relatively dull organized Crime, from people who make money with prostitution and street drug trafficking, to highly complex organized white-collar crime, which can also have something to do with the mafia. And ultimately we need concepts that, on the one hand, cover everything that happens in this area at all first take a look and then fight accordingly. "