Life After Trafficking; Transnational Perspectives

Research Project coordinated by:

- Dr. Elodie Apard, Chargée de Recherche, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Unité de Recherches Migrations et Société (URMIS)

- Dr. Precious Diagboya, Senior Research Fellow, Institut Français de Recherche du Nigéria (IFRA-Nigeria)

Illustration Life after Trafficking 1 page 0001

Original drawing : Ewena Robin


Project Description

This project is a continuation of an IFRA research project on the Protection of migrants and Asylum seekers especially Children and women coming from Nigeria and victims of trafficKING (PACKING).

For some years now, human trafficking for sexual exploitation from Nigeria to Europe is grabbing the attention of public institutions and arousing growing media interest. This phenomenon, partly due to its “emotional power” (Jakšić 2013), also triggered abundant scientific production. But even if largely covered by scholars, NGOs and government authorities, such topic remains tricky to analyze, notably because of the potential political exploitation of social and moral issues related to sex trafficking.

The research project “Life after trafficking; transnational perspectives” has been, thus, based on critical distancing and new approaches, in order to develop original forms of data collection, through multi-situated ethnographic fieldwork.

So far, most studies on sex trafficking have adopted one-sided approaches, either from a Nigerian or a European perspective. In Nigeria, analyses often conflate sex trafficking and “irregular” migration, while in Europe, the focus has long been on the legal framework of anti-trafficking policies and the status of victims (Jakšić & Ragaru, 2021, de Montvalon, 2018). Individual trajectories and family histories have been more seldom explored[1]. In addition to family histories, the present project intends to focus on personal experiences at a micro level, but within a transnational continuum that encompasses spaces of departure, transit and arrival.

This collective and multidisciplinary research project follows the previous work on trafficking for sexual exploitation from Nigeria to Europe undertaken by IFRA-Nigeria from 2015 to 2020[2].

The two coordinators of the project are:

  • Dr. Precious Diagboya, philosopher by training, has studied the epistemology of slavery before specializing in human trafficking for sexual exploitation. As a native of Edo State, she has excellent knowledge of Benin Culture and History, but also of the social landscape of the region.
  • Dr. Elodie Apard, historian by training, has worked and lived in Nigeria for 9 years. She specialized in women international mobility and sex-trafficking when she was the Director of the French Research Institute in Nigeria (IFRA-Nigeria), between 2016 and 2020.

Both of them were part of these preceding research studies; they conducted extensive fieldwork, in France and in Nigeria, and developed a solid expertise in analysing the social, religious, economic and political dynamics that underlie sex-trafficking logics and practices[3].


Context of the Study

During the past decade, sex trafficking from Nigeria to Europe evolved significantly, following a series of events; the so-called “migrant crisis” in 2015-2016, closure of south European countries, externalization of borders and the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-2021. As a result, the number of people affected, the routes, destinations and trafficking strategies have changed. In 2018, in Nigeria, the declaration of the Oba of Benin, that declared trafficking practices punishable by death, also had a considerable impact on the phenomenon.

Today, while the number of Nigerian women arriving in Europe through trafficking networks has decreased, new major challenges have emerged.

One of them is the integration of these women into the host societies in Western Europe. After experiencing the violence of sexual exploitation, the majority of them suffer from polytrauma. The way the receiving countries acknowledge and address their peculiar situation is crucial to the success of their social integration as well as those of their children.

Another challenge lies in the relationship these women have with their Families in Nigeria. Trafficking often stems from a collective strategy to escape poverty and is seen as a way to sustain the whole household. The nature of the family ties plays a key role in the life of trafficked women in Europe, but also in the transformation of social and family dynamics in Nigeria.

Through multi-situated fieldwork and crossed data, this research project intends to explore post-trafficking issues, both in France and in Nigeria. The idea is not to compare situations in departure and arrival countries but rather to combine different perspectives on what characterizes life after trafficking, at the different levels of the transnational continuum.


Main Goals

By gathering original and fresh first-hand data, this project aims at enhancing empirical knowledge on sex trafficking. It intends to document and analyse the transnational dynamics developing between Nigeria and Europe, among victims of trafficking who are now engaged in an insertion process and with their families.

The results of this research will translate into academic publications (articles in peer-reviewed Journals, book’s chapters) and presentations (papers presented in Conferences, public lectures or seminars).

However, production of scientific knowledge on sex trafficking from Nigeria should not remain limited to scholarly work, therefore, the results of this project will also be disseminated towards actors involved on the ground and stakeholders. Through written reports, public presentations or organising small groups discussions with concerned professionals, researchers will inform a large public on what is at stake in post-trafficking situations.

The project is an action-oriented research project implemented in partnership with MIST association[4] (Mission d’Intervention et de Sensibilisation contre la Traite), in Paris. Founded by Nigerian women victims of sex-trafficking, Mist association is specialised in protecting, sheltering and helping victims through their integration process in France. Based on peer-education, the association also organises support groups, workshops and podcast production, in which the collaboration with researchers has proved to be particularly fruitful. This project shall also be useful to the association and its members; researchers will indeed make data available to victims and will aim at developing new forms of knowledge transmission and alternative forms of writing while promoting collaborative reflection.



In the course of the previous research work and ethnographic fieldwork they conducted, the two coordinators of the project realized that different perceptions, depending on researchers’ point of view and positionality, co-exited and needed to be combined. Then, they decided to implement new research approaches, based on the complementarity of a multi-situated analysis.

The two coordinators are based in different countries: Dr. Elodie Apard in France and Dr. Precious Diagboya in Nigeria; but the research tasks do not correspond to this geographical division; both researchers work with former victims of trafficking in their respective countries, follow their integration process in France, engage with social workers and and meet the families in Nigeria, either separately through individual fieldwork conducted in parallel, or together during common field surveys.

The aim of undertaking fieldwork together, alternatively in France and in Nigeria, is to combine different skills (i.e. language and analytical skills) and methodologies, but also different standpoints and perspectives, on the same object, at the same time. This original method allows a broader approach and facilitates the researchers’ reflexivity efforts.

Finally, access to the field, to the victims and their families is facilitated by the researchers’ experience and also by the collaboration with MIST; while researchers take part in the association’s activities, some members of MIST participate in the research process.



The idea of the project started in 2020, with the involvement of the two coordinators in the activities of MIST association and theirs exchanges with members about the challenges of integration in France. The first surveys started in 2021, with a common fieldwork conducted in the Nigerian Churches of Paris Region. Researchers explored the role of the Church in the socialisation and integration processes in France, as well as their connections with trafficking practices. Since 2022, fieldwork has been conducted simultaneously in France and in Nigeria, among members of the same families, to address post-trafficking issues from different perspectives.

Supported by IFRA-Nigeria and URMIS Paris, this research project is expected to develop in the years to come by getting substantial funding and associating more researchers.



[1] Among the few scholars who did explore individual trajectories is Sine Plambech, anthropologist at the Danish Institute for International Studies.


[3] Among the outcomes of their collective work on sex trafficking, see : Apard, Élodie, Precious Diagboya, et Vanessa Simoni. "“Ashawo no Dey Kill!” The social-climbing projects of families in the context of sex trafficking (Nigeria-Europe)", Politique africaine, vol. 159, no. 3, 2020, pp. 51-82., Élodie Apard, Precious Diagboya, et. al. Religious, Social and Criminal Groups in Trafficking of Nigerian Girls and Women. [Research Report], 2019, 179 p. ⟨hal-03337293⟩, Élodie Apard, Precious Diagboya, et. al.,Temples et traite des êtres humains du Nigéria vers l'Europe. [Rapport de recherche], 2019, 77 p. ⟨hal-02124579⟩


Tags: Human Trafficking

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