Journalistic account of the sex trade that runs from the west coast of Africa to the southern coast of Italy and beyond.
American journalist Nadeau, author of an earlier account of the Italian trial of American murder suspect Amanda Knox (Angel Face, 2010), turns her attention to the Camorra, or Calabrian Mafia, and their engagements with the drug and arms trades, which in turn net them human cargo: young women from Nigeria and other African countries, recruited at home and promised livelihoods in Europe, then smuggled into Italy on overcrowded, easily shipwrecked boats. Reports Nadeau, “in 2016, eleven thousand Nigerian women and girls arrived in Italy on those boats.” There they were collected and put to work in the mob-controlled prostitution industry, with no way out. It does not help that Nigerian women can claim asylum easily by saying that they are threatened by Boko Haram, nor that the immigration authorities “may even know that [a woman] is being trafficked and forced to sell sex against her will, but they still look away.” Church-based and other nongovernmental agencies have stepped in but have been overwhelmed so that few women are intercepted as they land and can be guided into applying for safe asylum away from Camorra control. “They have to work fast,” writes the author, “because the traffickers are waiting in the refugee camps to ferry the girls to their madams, often within the first week of their arrival.” The book, built on interviews with many participants, is well-reported and consistently heartbreaking yet occasionally repetitive. Moreover, the author drops threads only to pick them up later, slowed by too much attention to minor detail (“Some men stop on motorcycles. The teenage boys who stop are invariably riding mopeds”).
Though sometimes a chore to read, Nadeau’s book makes for a useful work of advocacy, calling attention to a terrible traffic in human misery.