Smith Departs for Nigeria to Focus on Anti-Trafficking, HIV/AIDS Initiatives
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today departed on a trip to Nigeria where he will press for an end to human trafficking and monitor U.S. assistance to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in a country with the world's third highest-rate of HIV/AIDS-afflicted persons.
Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficked women and children. Nigerian women and children are trafficked to Europeparticularly into Italythe Middle East, and other countries in Africa for the purposes of forced labor, domestic servitude andin many casessexual exploitation.
"Nigerian women are being lured to Europe through fraud and the promise of high-quality jobs upon arrival. Instead of finding a dream job, they are entrapped, coerced, stripped of their humanity and forced into sexual slavery. We can and must do more to eliminate these heinous crimes against women in Africa's most populous country," said Smith, author of the nation's first anti-trafficking law, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (P.L. 106-386) and its subsequent reauthorizations. These laws form the crux of U.S. policy to address human trafficking on both the national and international level.
"With their new anti-trafficking law and its subsequent amendments, the Nigerian Government has taken some first steps toward eliminating human trafficking. However, additional work must be done to strengthen the efforts to stop this horrific abuse of women in Nigeria," said Smith.
Because trafficking of Nigerian women into Italy is such a problem, Smith will also stop in Rome where he will meet victims of trafficking from Nigeria who are now receiving assistance under Italian legislation that is considered to be particularly effective in rehabilitating trafficking victims.
Smith said, "The two nations acknowledge that there are networks moving people from Nigeria to Italy against their will. In an effort to jointly address the problem, the Italian government has paid for the creation of database for the two countries to track, monitor and most importantly stop human trafficking between them."
"I look forward to seeing this new collaborative effort at work first hand as there are high hopes that it could be considered as a model for other African nations to follow in their efforts to cut off the pipeline of exploitation of women," Smith added.
Smithwho serves as Ranking Republican on the Africa and Global Health Subcommitteewill also discuss the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) with Nigerian Government officials and non-governmental organization aid workers. Nigeria is one of the 15 focus nations of the President's 5-year, $15 billion dollar commitment to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS in Africa. PEPFAR is the largest international health initiative in history dedicated to a single disease
"Nigeria has over 3.5 million cases of HIV/AIDS, carrying the third largest HIV/AIDS burden in the world. Countries that have followed PEPFAR's ABC model have successfully reduced the rate of people afflicted with HIV/AIDS within their borders. With PEPFAR due for reauthorization, it is imperative that we document the effectiveness of the program on the ground," said Smith.
Smith is set to return to the U.S. on February 25th.