Miracle returns to Nigeria and an update

Firstly thank you to everyone who donated in our recent ask. We raised enough money to bring both Jennifer and Miracle home although we are having to pay evacuation flight prices with Emirates, twice the commercial fare.

After testing negative for COVID Miracle left Dubai on the 15th on an evacuation flight. As is always the case it was a tense few days before the flight arranging COVID testing, paying visa overstays and waiting for her seat to be confirmed. All the flights are totally oversubscribed even though Dubai has had the latest number of repatriation flights back to Nigeria worldwide.

Miracle was meant to be met at Abuja airport by NAPTIP but owing to lack of coordination and resources she ended up being stranded. Fortunately, we have a great relationship with two senior investigators at NAPTIP who were able to communicate with her via a fellow passenger. After some confusion, she took a 12-hour bus ride back home and after she managed to buy a Nigerian sim we were back in contact.

Miracle and her mum back home in Nigeria

Being reunited with her mother has been hard for Miracle. The mother is not well and not working but Miracle was overjoyed to be home nonetheless. As with so many of the victims, travelling to Dubai causes some subtle dissonance. They move from usually very poor accommodation in Nigeria, with intermittent electricity, no running water or internal sanitation. Imagine arriving in Dubai – light 24/7, paved roads, luxury everywhere, clean environment, clients paying $100 an hour. To be so near to it all whilst being hel as an unseen prisoner being exploited for sex. One of the highlights in their miserable lives as trafficked victims is taking a shower in a client hotel bathroom and sometimes being able to sleep under freshly laundered sheets. Mostly the clients are kind to the girls with the general exception of Arab and Nigerian men.

My experience with returnees is that they are trapped in a dark hole of shame and fear. Unless you are hugely successful as a prostitute or madam in Nigeria, prostitution is frowned upon. If you come back with aids you can’t share this with anyone owing to the social stigma. So after all the excitement on departure, they have to slip back into home life as quietly as possible. This often leads to months of isolation & mental health issues unless the family can support you through it. Many victims don’t share their ordeal at all, not even with family or close friends.

Often it’s hard to determine the truth with victims of trafficking. Some go to the UAE hoping to be able to support their families in prostitution. Almost all end up being exploited, passports taken away and held in debt bondage. When they agree to take the jobs, the “agent” in Nigeria will agree a price for travel, accommodation and visas, between $5,000 and $10,000. This “debt” is kept in a written paper ledger by the madam at their accommodation. For most victims the debt is never repaid; deductions are made as punishments or for paying visa and visa fines.

Jennifer Simon, the second woman you have helped, has made a stunning recovery. She came to us as a wretched broken woman and was taken into our safe accommodation run by John. After being locked up for four years, she was slow to adapt to her freedom but is now blooming, not to make light of the ordeal she faces once back home. For now, she is safe, happy, loved and well-fed.

We have processed her paperwork and now await news of the next evacuation flight. Our friends on the ground are well connected with the consulate and I am hopeful we will get a seat. John takes her to the local park to play ball with other Nigerian women at dusk and to watch her is a joy as she has a break from her ordeal, both behind and ahead of her.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for enabling me to do this work. I am now working on the Hope Education Project http://hopeeducation.ng together with one of our US donors, now volunteering and a serving NAPTIP officer. I hope to have big news on this project soon!