Why we're determined to end human trafficking in Europe —Kate Imasuen
With human trafficking still rearing its head and denting the image of African and Nigerians in diaspora, Mrs. Kate Ibara Imasuen through her German-based Non- Governmental Organization, Great African Network for Women, is motivated to fight human trafficking and restore the nearly lost image of Nigeria abroad.
Imasuen and her husband, Philip, are pastors of House of Prayers International Ministries, Berlin. The couple recently collaborated with Nigerians in Diaspora (NIDO), Germany and instituted for Cultural Diplomacy with the Nigerian Embassy in Germany to honour Titi Abubakar, wife of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Bishop Peace Okonkwo for their contributions in affecting the lives of children and the women folks positively. They were conferred with the Lifetime achievers awards.
Through her experience as a speaker, counsellor and television producer, Imasuen discovered that a recurring issue about female abuse is what she deals with and the NGO, which was established in 2006, has helped in no small measure in dealing with the situation. Though, she agreed that much work needs to be done.
In this interview, she spoke about the evil of trafficking, how human traffickers take their victims to voodoo priests, covenant involvement, challenges, the reason for the awards and many more.
What are the evils of trafficking?
Trafficking is on the increase as we speak because sometimes people think that trafficking is reduced to a minimal level but surprisingly, it is still going on. It boils down to the fact that poverty in the country is the reason. Lack of social amenities, information, infrastructure, poor living condition gave rise to human trafficking.
It becomes worrisome because people just assume that travelling outside the country is the solution to poor quality lifestyle. They are not aware of what Europe and migration is all about. The fast thought 'because I am poor right now, if I travel outside my present location, I will make it', is wrong. It doesn't work that way.
We have heard people say that overtimes. We have seen what the Executive Secretary of NAPTIP said recently about the situation in Mali when you have about 30 to 40, 000 women held in brothels in a near slavery situation. It is all over the world. Trafficking is still on the increase and it must be talked about. Just a couple of days ago, a 24-year-old girl walked into my office, you would guess that she was trafficked to Europe when she was 19 or 20. You could see the innocence written on her face. Only God knows what she went through in the hands of her traffickers.
As a woman, my heart bled and we contributed our little effort to address her situation.
Is trafficking peculiar to Nigerians alone?
That was the thinking in the past. We were told in Germany that Ghanaians and nationals of African countries are into trafficking. It is just not like the sex part of it although Berlin is a sex market. The fact is that it has grown and become a successful business for these madams who make quick money through trafficking. It is not peculiar to Nigerians but they are more into it now.
What do you think are the measures that could curb trafficking?
We work with other agencies and our NGO deals with the issue of human trafficking in Germany. We know the culture, we understand voodoo but for them in Germany, voodoo is strange. In several conferences where we are guest speakers, the area of discussion is always how voodoo work because they cannot understand it. We know that to get loyalty and to instill fear in your victims, what traffickers do is to take their victims to a voodoo priest. A lady that was to be trafficked was taken to a voodoo priest and he brought out the heart of a chicken with the blood-dripping raw. He gave the girl that chicken to eat and as she ate, he gave her the local dry gin kaikai to drink too. So, what do you have? As she did that, the chicken dropped dead. And he said, if you go to Europe and misbehave and spill out the bean, you are going to die like that chicken. With that, he has instilled fear and there are several of those kind of stories. Even when they are caught, they cannot give out useful information that would lead to the arrest of traffickers. That is the problem the German police are facing. They are not willing to expose them because of the covenant they believe would take care of them.
You have to explain how it works for them. Another thing is that an African especially a Nigerian is a religious being. We are a people of faith unlike what you see abroad. Religion plays a big role in human trafficking.
Has trafficking strained German-Nigerian relationship?
It has not strained the relationship but most people are suspicious of others. What you do is not written on your face. You understand that the kind of people they meet in clubs are probably ladies that are trafficked or have been trafficked to Europe.
What then do you think is the solution to human trafficking?
We work back and forth. What I mean by that is, we travel to Nigeria to do our sensitization, teaching and counselling. We do not joke with sensitization, awareness interactions and counselling. Some of these ladies that are exposed to forced prostitution do not find it funny. Though, prostitution is legalized in most countries but in as much as you cannot stop people from a career, but those ones that don't want to do it, who are just graduating from primary and secondary schools need not be forced into it.
It is terrible that a sister would bring her blood sister, a brother would bring her blood sister or step sister to come and prostitute in Europe. What we see here are things known and seen as abomination. People are not well informed about the true situation of coming to live in Europe in a wrong manner. Again, parents are not left out.There is this aspect where parents pressurize their children out of hardship and greed. I don't see why parents would expose their children to danger because they cannot provide daily meal. It is a terrible thing. Most of them come back with terrible diseases.
Another aspect is the psychological effect because after you have gone through so much abuse, it takes the Holy Spirit to transform you. I was told a story of a lady in WOCLEF who long after graduation from the university is still finding it difficult to break away from the past. It keeps haunting her. The evil of forced prostitution has a psychological aspect.
What was the reason for the September 4 award?
The award was meant for people who have affected the society positively especially children and the women folk. But we narrowed it to our own field. We looked at the different NGOs and what they have done in the past and we saw that Mrs. Titi Abubakar, wife of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, is doing a great job with her WOCLEF which is over 10 years and still in operation after leaving power. She brought some of these prostitutes from Italy and trained them to be useful.
If you must know, it was because of WOCLEF that we have NAPTIP.
We took a review of her work. For Bishop Mrs. Peace Okonkwo, she met a lady in the convenience room and she was in a difficult situation and since then, the desire for her to help came about. And she has been doing just that. Apart from these two noble women, there were post- humous award that we gave to Emeka Okonkwo. He was a young teenager that was killed in Frankfurt here on May 2. Emeka was coming back home late in the morning when he met two young women being harassed by Eriterians at the Frankfurt main station. And looking from a distant, he felt the instinct to help them and one of the guys stabbed him. He died an hour later. If Emeka had not gone to assist those two women maybe it would have been the other way round that the women were killed but he put his life for these ladies.
There was also Dr. Obaseki, who studied here and helped a lot of Nigerians medically and financially.The award would be a propelling force to encourage more people for excellence.