Open Letter to My Beautiful Nigerian Sisters Desperately Seeking Refuge in the Arms of Europe

IMG_5479My Sister,

Your mind, body, soul and spirit are about to be broken. You are about to be sold and recycled. You will be beaten, brutally raped, drugged, starved and tortured on multiple occasions, that is if you are not killed along the way by your traffickers who will readily slaughter you for your organs. Yes, indeed to them, you may even be more valuable dead than alive.

Sound improbable? Unfortunately not. This is the consistent reality of the hundreds of stories I have heard as we partner with repatriating sex trafficking survivors to restore their broken bodies and to rebuild their lives. But alas, there are thousands more, considering that six out of every ten people trafficked to the West are Nigerians.

Yes, they too left with the same dreams that you have, i.e., to give themselves and their families a better future. After all, who does not want to escape a country that appears to value power over people, wealth over wisdom and corruption over character? Sure, poverty is rife in Nigeria, education is not a priority and economic opportunities for those whose fathers’ last names are not tied to the big businesses of religion and politics are unheard of. I understand; all you want to do is level the playing field. I feel you.

Yet, I implore you. Please do not get on that plane, in that car or on that boat. Sure, your mother may have convinced you to go because you are the family’s ticket out of poverty; she may have even negotiated the terms of your contract with the trafficker, but it is not too late. Believe me when I tell you that the journey ahead is treacherous and you will end up with nothing to show for your trouble other than HIV/AIDS and other venereal diseases that may take you longer to properly pronounce than the time it takes you to read this letter.Our survivors’ stories are real. I’m happy to have yoIMG_3378u meet some of them. They will tell you of days on end when they were trapped in rooms with external locks and forced to have sex with 10-15 men. A day. Every day. They will tell you of days when they did not make the $500 demanded from them on a daily basis because their bodies were physically incapable of doing so. Of days that they longed for death to ease the pain of their tortured existence. Yes, the struggle is real and your revolution will not be televised.

Believe me when I say that you will never be able to repay your never decreasing $75,000 debt to your Madame, no matter how many €20 transactions of sex you negotiate with customers. Never. Nor will you be rewarded with a single Nigerian kobo to ring your family to whisper a brief hello from the other side.  And this is because debt bondage is real in “the life,” in this tangled web of modern day slavery.

So please unpack your bag and call me, write me or email me. Free practical and viable alternatives to this path that leads to hell on earth are available. Please, do not settle.

Finally, please trust me when I tell you that Mrs. Oke’s daughter down the street who bought her mother a brand new car after returning from overseas is an anomaly. She bears the scars of a hundred rapes across her heart and sleeps with music on to drown out the screams that her mind can no longer comprehend. She is a shell of who she was meant to be. If you don’t believe me, ask her to show you her heart.

Sister, you deserve your best life. Please call. I promise, no judgment. Just grace.

With hope,

R. E. Idahosa