A 40-year-old Greek-Nigerian woman who was arrested in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Wednesday is seen as one of the key figures in a human trafficking racket in Italy that forced dozens of girls from the west African country into prostitution.
Greek authorities have been working with their Italian counterparts, who issued a European warrant for the woman’s arrest following an investigation into the racket’s activities and the arrest in Italy of several members of the gang.
According to their findings, the 40-year-old Greek-Nigerian woman convinced dozens of girls in Nigeria to travel to Italy with promises of employment as housekeepers, hairdressers or hotel workers. They are thought to have been smuggled into Italy by sea via Libya.
Once they arrived in Italy, the girls would be locked up, abused and forced into working as prostitutes in order to pay off their “debt” to the traffickers for getting them into Europe.
According to the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch, the traffickers would also take advantage of the girls’ religious beliefs to frighten them into compliance.
It is thought that the ring was able to make as much as 40,000 euros off each girl.
An appeals council in Thessaloniki is due to rule on the 40-year-old woman’s extradition to Italy in the next few days.