"This is not the life I want for myself"

A teen migrant, trafficked and forced into prostitution

By Angela Hawke
Desperate to escape poverty in Nigeria, 17 year old "Joy" made the deadly journey to Italy by sea in the hopes of a better life. A trafficker lured her with the promise of a job, but once “Joy” arrived to Italy she was forced into prostitution to pay her smuggler.
UNICEF/Italy

17 May 2017

No one should go through what ‘Joy’ has suffered. This 17-year-old, desperate to escape from poverty in Nigeria, made the deadly journey to Italy by sea in the hopes of a better life, only to find those hopes shattered.

"I was so ashamed"

A trafficker lured her to Europe with the promise of a job as a stylist. But once she arrived in Italy, the trafficker forced her into prostitution to pay off a debt – a staggering 20,000 Euros. Sometimes she saw three or four men a day, an experience that has left her in severe distress.

While ‘Joy’ was rescued, an alarming number of refugee and migrant children are still being exploited and trafficked into prostitution.

UNICEF supports the long-term integration of refugee and migrant children like Joy into the communities where they now live. In Italy, and in the other countries with refugee and migrant populations, we help to provide education and psychosocial services for refugee and migrant children while strengthening national child protection systems to benefit every vulnerable child.

We also work in their countries of origin to ease the poverty, lack of education, conflict and insecurity that drive them to leave. In every country, from Nigeria to Afghanistan, we strive to ensure that all children are safe, healthy, educated and protected.

Our support for the protection of children like ‘Joy’ against exploitation and violence is part of our Agenda for Action for refugee and migrant children which aims to change attitudes in every country.

  1. Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.
  2. End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating.
  3. Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status.
  4. Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services.
  5. Press for action on the underlying causes of large scale movements of refugees and migrants.
  6. Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination.


We must all stand with #ChildrenUprooted.