A Nigerian girl, Blessing Obuson, who thought Russia’s soccer World Cup would be an opportunity to find a job and flew into Moscow, last June, instead, found herself forced to work as a prostitute.
According to Reuters, Obuson, 19, said she had hoped to work as a shop assistant to provide for her 2-year-old daughter and younger siblings back in Edo state.
Instead, she said she was locked in a flat on the outskirts of Moscow and forced into sex work along with 11 other Nigerian women who were supervised by a madam, also from Nigeria.
“I cried really hard. But what choice did I have?” Obuson told Reuters after being freed by anti-slavery activists. She said her madam had confiscated her passport and told her she’d only get it back once she’d worked off a debt of $50k.
Two Nigerians were later arrested and charged with human trafficking after striking a deal to sell Obuson for $30,000 to a police officer posing as a client.
Obuson’s case is not isolated. Reuters also met eight Nigerian women aged between 16 and 22 brought into Russia on fan IDs and forced into sex work. All said they had endured violence.
“They don’t give you food for days, they slap you, they beat you, they spit in your face… It’s like a cage,” said one 21-year old woman.
In September, a Nigerian woman was killed by a man who refused to pay for sex, police said. The Nigerian embassy later identified her as 22-year old Alifat Momoh who had come to Russia from Nigeria with a fan ID for the World Cup.
Russian police say 1,863 Nigerians who entered the country with fan IDs had not left by Jan. 1, the date when the IDs expired.