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There is also some positive news to be shared: Italian law guarantees residency rights and social support to women trafficked for prostitution, even if they have not got to the stage of being forced to sell their bodies in Italy.Despite that, the IOM says barely 300 women accepted such help between the start of 2015 and the end of August.For many, abuse and violence starts en route, in particular in Libya.

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“They came back and started taking family and friends.” These women, known as “madams” - who make up around half of Nigeria’s traffickers, UNDOC says - are mostly former victims-turned-brokers who prey on others to escape prostitution.

Many such traffickers believe they are being helpful rather than doing harm, calling themselves sponsors rather than madams, a more positive title, according to Eghafona. Some refuse to go, others agree.” For an insight into what drives young women to travel to Italy and sell sex, look no further than Uromi, with its pothole-ridden roads and derelict buildings with wells in front yards – evidence of the town’s lack of running water. Its nickname is “Little London” and it is known for sleek, modern houses behind imposing iron gates, many said to be funded from the proceeds of prostitution.

With each new landing of migrants rescued at sea, the well-worn processing procedures have an almost ritualistic aspect to them: a first identification interview, cuddly toys for the children and a specialist from the International Organization for Migration paying particular attention to any young women.

Nigerian females have been landing in Italy in significant numbers since the 1980s, lured by the promise of jobs only to find themselves with colossal debts to the traffickers who got them here. According to IOM figures, 433 Nigerian women arrived in 2013, 1,454 in 2014, 5,653 last year and 7,768 in the first nine months of 2016.“We estimate that between 70 and 80 percent of them are in danger of being forced into prostitution,” said the IOM’s Luca Pianese, adding that the numbers do not include hundreds of minors.

In reality, many of them are destined for years of sexual slavery.

And in Italy's migrant-saturated southern ports, prising these young Nigerian girls away from their traffickers is a formidable challenge.

“If it is prostitution, I’ll do it.” In the past, girls like Faith would have been tricked into prostitution, promised jobs like hairdressing or supermarket before being forced to work for pimps.

“Before, nobody knew - it was a secret thing,” said 30-year-old Anita, who was sex trafficked to Italy in 2011, after being deceived into thinking she was going to work as a hairdresser.

According to Nigerian nun Monica Chikwe, who coordinates a network of safe houses for trafficked African women, that is not surprising.

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