The Spanish and Finnish police forces, with the help of Europol, stopped 24 members of an alleged network of prostitutes exploiting Nigerian women who claimed to seek asylum, the European police agency said on Thursday.
“The victims, for the majority of vulnerable young Nigerians, were recruited in Nigeria and arrived in Spain via Italy,” said Europol, based in The Hague. “Once in Spain, they were forced into prostitution, mostly in the towns of Benidorm (south-east) and Malaga (south), but also in Madrid, Barcelona, Soria (center) and Gandia (south-east)”, Europol said in a statement.
The Spanish police arrested the alleged members of the network in various localities of the country, but its leader was arrested and taken into custody in Helsinki. The authorities had previously been alerted that two Nigerian asylum seekers could be trafficked, Europol said. “The investigations revealed the existence of an organized criminal group operating in Spain, with significant infrastructure in Nigeria, as well as links to Niger, Libya and Italy,” according to Europol.
The women were smuggled to Spain, where they were asked to seek international protection and asylum with a view to “being able to work for the criminal organization without problems if they were identified by the police”, added Europol.
The group provided victims with false documents to make their asylum claim. The Spanish police dismantled earlier this month another network that forced transsexuals into prostitution after attracting most of them to Spain from Venezuela.