Michelle Lanspa

Michelle Lanspa (Transnational AIDS Prevention among Migrant Prostitutes in Europe Project – TAMPEP): Michelle is from Omaha, Nebraska. She graduated from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown university, where she majored in science and technology in international affairs with a concentration in international health. Michelle participated in many social justice activities and groups at college, including the Georgetown-UNICEF club, Education Without Boundaries (Project Argentina), and Global Justice Now (the Student Campaign for Child Survival). Michelle loves learning language learning. She learned Italian and Arabic, and had a chance to practice her language skills as an intern at the US Embassy in Rome and while studying abroad at the American University of Cairo in Egypt.


06 Feb

Maybe this title is a little strong, but that was the message from a few Nigerian women in a film that we saw Friday at the training of TAMPEP’s institutional partners. In the film, the women talked about their experiences in Italy. I will tell you one of their stories. A girl we will call Cristina came from a poor family of seven children from Benin City, Nigeria. She told her family that she wanted to go to Europe to help them. She met her trafficker in Nigeria, and he explained to her how much the trip and necessary documents would cost and that she would be a babysitter for a family in Italy. She left for Lagos in the south of Nigeria with a few other women. She was there for two weeks, and then another African country for two more weeks. She went through Mali, Algeria, and other countries for nine months before arriving by plane in France. When she arrived in Italy, she discovered what her actual job would be – prostitution. She was made to travel between Napoli and Madrid for one client, but she never saw any of the money she earned from these transactions; she never knew how much her trafficker received, nor therefore how much remained of her debt. Eventually, Cristina found herself in a CPT, a centro di permanenza temporanea, or a center of temporary detainment.

Right now the CPT are a huge controversy in Italy. You can see in the photo below some graffiti I found on a wall in Turin that says “fuoco ai cpt,” or “fire to the CPT.” The CPT are described as isole staccate, or detached islands. Others describe them and their tight control as prisons. In 2004, the Commission for Human Rights of the UN and the Italian government affirmed the commitment to provide maximum transparency as possible in the CPT. Groups like Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders, however, continue to document human rights abuses in these centers and asks Italy: “why close the doors, if everything inside is ok?” Not just international organizations, but Italian ones as well are repeatedly denied access to these centers, even to perform humanitarian work.

Via Vanchiglia, Turin, ItalyJune 17, 2007

In the CPT, Cristina decided that she did not want to return to Nigeria, she did not want to create problems for her family. One day, someone at the CPT instructed everyone to fill out a form in order identify themselves. She did not know that she had signed her repatriation to Nigeria… At the end of the film, after having heard all the stories of Cristina and the other women, all now back in Nigeria, one of them said “do not go to Italy. They enjoy seeing you suffer. They want to destroy you.”

Despite this depressing message, I was still hopeful at the end of the day because many institutional partners had come to learn more about the trafficking of persons from TAMPEP. At the training there was people from the city police, from the carabiniere (a branch of the army that works for the Italian police force), from the CPT, from research centers, and from the Red Cross that wanted to know better how to identify the victims of trafficking and how to help them more. In fact, at the beginning of the day, they identified key words that expressed their experiences, whether brief or frequent, with victims of trafficking. They identified the fear of the women, their fragility, prejudice, and the conditions of slavery as obstacles that prevent the women and girls from asking for help and also prevent the institutions from reaching out to them.

This message from the film made me think about how the trafficking of persons is part of greater phenomenon of migration. It made me think about how it is a shame that so many people see Italy now as a country of exploitation. Also for many immigrants in Italy that were not trafficked, especially irregular (illegal) immigrants, the migrant life is hard. Migration, however, is also and can still be a marvelous opportunity for many. How one puts these seemingly contrary facts together to create a more just migratory program, not only in Italy, but in the whole world, is a tough question. How can we offer opportunities and get rid of the exploitation? One of the participants of the training made everyone remember that trafficking is not a simple operation. Trafficking involves many actors… one cannot denounce and punish a single person or group, but one must study and know the complicated networks that profit off the selling of human beings. While TAMPEP helps the victims and tries with programs of prevention to little by little stop the phenomenon, there is also work to be done in the judicial field. Therefore, TAMPEP performed a great service to the victims of trafficking having this training for their institutional partners.

Posted By Michelle Lanspa

Posted Feb 6th, 2009

1 Comment

  • Sarah

    November 15, 2008



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