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From Nigeria to Italy: Women trafficked into sex work

Victoria's long skinny legs stretch out in front of her, as she sits down in a small safe house in Turin to tell me her story.

Her voice is sweet and quiet. She's just eighteen, but seems much younger, picking at her pink nail varnish and smoothing out her skirt.

"They promised me an education", she tells me. "They promised me if I came with them I could go to school and get a good job".

The promise was the slick patter of a modern slave master, who saw Victoria in her native Lagos back in Nigeria, and realised she was rich pickings.

It turns your stomach to think of it.

Many women are trafficked to work as sex workers in Italy Credit: ITV News

Her trafficker, whom she trusted, said he could get her to Italy.

With little to live for in Nigeria, Victoria found the money to pay and with her head full of teenage dreams of a better life, she went for it.

She is one of thousands of Nigerian women who take the gamble every year - the numbers have shot up in the past two years as the traffickers hide their victims in the endless flow of migrants heading to Europe.

Victoria's 2,500 mile journey became an epic of exploitation and abuse.

By the time they'd got her to Libya, Victoria had been beaten and forced into prostitution: making money for her trafficker to pay off her now endless debt to him.

This woman said her trafficker threatened to kill her Credit: ITV News

Her eyes widen as she tells me she had no choice. Her dismay is heartbreaking.

"I had no choice, I had no choice! I had to pay him... I was like a prisoner", she said.

But thankfully the shelter we're chatting in is a place of safety.

Just a few weeks ago she arrived in Italy by boat via the now well worn route of thousands of Nigerian women.

Before the traffickers awaiting her in Italy could pluck her from the crowd, she was spotted by a charity who know Victoria's story only too well.

Another woman said she was at risk of sexual diseases Credit: ITV News

It's run by an unlikely couple:

Princess Inyang Okokon was herself trafficked from Italy to Nigeria, via London, nearly 20 years ago.

Her husband Alberto is happy to admit he was once one of her paying clients.

But when he met Princess, his eyes were opened to the phenomenon of modern slavery: she was trapped in a life of prostitution in Italy, her documents kept by her female trafficker - and with massive debts to pay. He helped her get out.

For Princess, Victoria's story is her story.

She and Alberto now run shelters for women just like her, but are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer numbers they are dealing with.

Women lose their 'earning potential' if they become pregnant Credit: ITV News

They take us onto the streets of Turin late at night: in one suburb there is a sex worker on almost every corner - nearly all of them we are told, will have been trafficked from Nigeria.

Wearing barely any clothes, they stoke fires they've made in small oil drums to keep warm whilst they wait for the next car to pull up.

And rescuing them is dangerous work: the traffickers watch their every move.

We spoke to many of the women Princess and Alberto care for. All of them had tales of rape, beatings, enforced servitude.

Two of them had babies with them - thrown onto the boats from Libya to Italy because their trade value went down when they got pregnant in Libya.

Every single one of them had been bought, sold, used, and resold. They were treated as goods in transit.

And if you think this is an issue far away from home, it isn't. Such women are trafficked to Britain too. It is an utter scandal.

Princess Inyang Okokon and her husband Alberto help the victims Credit: ITV News

Today Princess spoke at a special conference at the Vatican on Modern Slavery to which police chiefs from all over the world have been invited - and she will tell her story to Pope Francis when she meets him tomorrow.

He's described modern slavery as 'an open wound on the body of contemporary society'.

Princess and Alberto will describe what it's like to dress that wound - and hope to open eyes to a crime which shames humanity.