Chapter 34. Highway to hell.
”I said it, useless girl. You want to snatch my husband in my own house. It is not going to work” Maria shouted at the bathroom door.
Ngozi had gone into the bathroom and closed the door. I had stopped in the middle of the sitting room, watching the bathroom door to make sure that a physical fight didn’t ensure between Ngozi and Maria.
”Its OK baby, leave that useless girl. Lets go back inside” I said as I pulled Maria back into the room. She had continued shouting inside the room while I changed into pyjamas.
”I have told you to stop shouting Maria. This is not the Maria I knew back in Nigeria. You have changed. When you were just my girlfriend, you used to listen to me but now that we are engaged, you don’t respect me again. I will leave this place if I hear your voice again” I said as soon as I finished changing my clothes.
She looked at me and said nothing.
When I finished putting on my cloths, I lay on the bed with my back and faced the roof. I didn’t say anymore thing to my fiance. Some moments later, she lay beside me and switched off the reading lamp.
”Baby I am thinking of something. I want to see if I can sponsor another two girls from Africa to Europe. If we have about four or five of them working for us, we will have enough money to save for our traditional marriage and wedding” I said.
”Hmm, it is a very good idea. I hope you are no more angry for the way I shouted at Ngozi. I am sorry” she replied.
”Don’t worry about that, we were all shouted at when we were that age. How do you people organise and bring the girls over here”? I asked.
It happened to be that the girls were readily available in Nigeria, especially in Edo and Delta State. All one needed to do was to get the news down to Nigerian and some girls would be rounded up. They required a certain age range. Girls between 16 and 19 were the hot cakes. Those between 19 and 23 were also in good demand. But those from 24 upwards were frowned upon and required good physical attributes to make it in the prostitution industry. The required amount to get one girl to Europe depended on many factors. It was usually cheaper if the girls traveled through the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea. The Most used routes were Lagos-Cotonou-Ouagadougou-Gao-Tessalit-Reggane-Abadia-Oujda-Oran.
To cover the above distance, it took over 3400 kilometers of desert travel.
Sometimes, depending on the contact one had, girls could be picked up in Mali or Southern Algeria. The major targets were usually the Mediterranean coastal cities of Rabat, Tangier, Casablanca, Oran, Algiers, Skikda, Annaba, Bizerte, Tripoli and Benghazi.
Those heading to Italy usually took the Libya cities of Tripoli and Benghazi while those heading to Spain used the other cities especially in Algeria and Morocco. The southern Spanish city of Cueta can be seen from Morocco. Cueta was a few kilometers away from Tangier. Gibralter was close as well.
Maria was comfortable explaining the Routes to me. However where i felt bad was when she began to explain how the girls were gathered and transported to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya for onward transportation to Europe.
According to Maria, most of the time, the girls were bought in North Africa before transporting them to Europe. The system was that there were people whose jobs were to go down to Nigeria, Ghana and some other poor Sub Saharan African Countries, convinced teenage girls and brought them to North Africa were they would be sold to the European buyers.
Yes, did you read that line well, they were sold to the European buyers who would transport them to Europe for their various brothels.
Slave trade was still much in existence. The European buyers had connections in all the major coastal cities scattered in North Africa. More than half of the European buyers were white people. The others were Africans who traded on small scale capacities. People such as Maria, Madam Alice, Madam Grace and Aunty Franca were just petty traders who could only buy one or two girls. There were some Europeans who traded on African girls. They came to North Africa with the excuse that they came for vacation but behind the doors, they traded on your sisters and my sisters. The naive teenagers were usually promised better life in Europe. They were promised education, jobs at important boutique etc but they usually faced the realities of what they came to do as soon as they arrived.
My Maria was a human trafficker and right there on our bed, she expected me to understand that it was business. Of course i understood, how could i not?
”So how do you negotiate the prize for the girls”? I asked Maria.
”It depends on the age and physical features of each girl. The younger the girls looked, the bigger the prize. Some girls goes for as high as €10,000 while some cost about €3000. People who bring them to North Africa, sell them to the big Mamas and some Europeans too. The first time i traveled to Libya was to buy three girls for my Madam. She gave me the money together with the transport expenses” she said.
”How do you transport them to Europe” i asked.
”If we have money, we hire papers for them. We have people in North Africa who will take the pictures of the girls and send to us through internet. We will check it and look for look alike documents. Before some of them reaches here, the expenses could be up to €18,000 or 20,000. But if we don’t have enough money at hand, we use the boats to cross them. They will land in Lampedusa, Sicily, Malta or some other Islands, then we go there and pick them up” she finished.
”What if their boats sink in the sea”? I asked.
”God forbid, my girls will never sink, its not my portion” she said.
That was it. My Maria was another idiot who believed in a God somewhere who approved her line of business and will never allow her girls to sink.
I kept quiet, closed my eyes and dropped two tears for my Continent. I wished i could change things alone.