Blessing Obuson thought Russia’s soccer World Cup would be an opportunity to find a job and flew into Moscow from Nigeria last June on a fan ID. Instead, she found herself forced to work as a prostitute.
Fan IDs allowed visa-free entry to World Cup supporters with match tickets, but did not confer the right to work. Despite that, Obuson, 19, said she had hoped to work as a shop assistant to provide for her 2-year-old daughter and younger siblings back in Nigeria’s Edo state.
Instead, she said she was locked in a flat on the outskirts of Moscow and forced into sex work along with 11 other Nigerian women who were supervised by a madam, also from Nigeria.
“I cried really hard. But what choice did I have?” Obuson told Reuters after being freed by anti-slavery activists.
She said her madam had confiscated her passport and told her she’d only get it back once she’d worked off a fictional debt of $50,000.
Obuson told her story to a rare English-speaking client who got anti-slavery activists involved.
Two Nigerians were later arrested and charged with human trafficking after striking a deal to sell Obuson for 2 million rubles (around $30,000) to a police officer posing as a client, according to her lawyer, statements from prosecutors, and evidence presented at court hearings in the case attended by Reuters journalists.
The case is still under investigation.