When someone tells you that if you travel to Dubai or Malaysia or Singapore, you can land big paying jobs, don’t always believe them.

As many as 20,000 women and girls are feared to have been trafficked from Nigeria to Mali where they are now stranded after being forced into prostitution.

This is according to the head of Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency, Julie Okah-Donli who stated this on Tuesday.

Okah-Donli, who is the Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, said a fact-finding team from NAPTIP and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had uncovered the extent of the trafficking during a visit to southern Mali last month.

Dozens of women and girls were repatriated from the Kangaba area of southern Mali in the preceding months. The team, who went to the area to investigate, found hundreds more being held there, Okah-Donli said in a telephone interview.

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“They were reliably informed by the locals that they had over 200 such places scattered around the southern part of Mali. In each of the shacks where they held them, they had 100 to 150 girls in the area. That is how we came to the figure of at least 20,000 being held,'' she said.

The women and girls, most aged 16-30, had been told they would be taken to Malaysia to work in hospitality but instead were forced into prostitution.

“They are held in horrible, slave-like conditions,” said Okah-Donli. “They can’t escape because they are kept in remote locations, like deep in forests.”

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