As reported over the past five years, Italy is a destination, transit, and source country for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Victims originate from Nigeria, Romania, Morocco, China, and other countries. Female victims are often subjected to sex trafficking in Italy after accepting promises of employment as dancers, singers, models, restaurant servers, or caregivers. Romanian and Albanian criminal groups force Eastern European women and girls into commercial sex. Nigerians represent 21 percent of victims, with numbers nearly doubling in 2016 to approximately 7,500 victims. Nigerian women and girls are subjected to sex and labor trafficking through debt bondage and coercion through voodoo rituals. Men from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe are subjected to forced labor through debt bondage in agriculture in southern Italy and in construction, house cleaning, hotels, and restaurants in the north. Chinese men and women are forced to work in textile factories in Milan, Prato, Rome, and Naples. Children subjected to sex trafficking, forced begging, and forced criminal activities are from Romania, Nigeria, Brazil, Morocco, and Italy, particularly Romani and Sinti boys who may have been born in Italy. Transgender individuals from Brazil and Argentina are subjected to sex trafficking in Italy. Unaccompanied children are at risk of trafficking, particularly boys from Somalia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Afghanistan, who often work in shops, bars, restaurants, and bakeries to repay smuggling debts. Italian men engage in child sex tourism abroad, including in countries across Africa, Latin America, and East Asia.
The estimated number of trafficking victims in Italy increased significantly due to the continued dramatic flow of migrants and asylum-seekers arriving by boat from sub-Saharan Africa. Italy received 181,436 irregular arrivals by sea in 2016, added to the 154,000 arrivals in 2015. More than one-half requested asylum, demonstrating possible vulnerability to trafficking. One international organization estimated more than 7,500 likely trafficking victims arrived from Nigeria alone in 2016, compared to an estimated 2,800 in 2015. Most rely on smugglers at some point during their journey and in some instances are subjected to human trafficking en route or upon arrival in Italy. Although the government operated temporary centers throughout the country to house asylum-seekers, the system was stretched beyond capacity; international organizations reported increased incidents of labor and sex trafficking of asylum-seekers as a result of the reception centers being unsuited for victims of trafficking and too accessible to traffickers who recruit victims. A shortage of shelters also resulted in less capacity to adequately monitor conditions. Under Italian law, asylum-seekers are not allowed to work while their applications are under review, and migrants often sought illegal employment in informal sectors, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking. Of total arrivals in 2016, 25,846 were unaccompanied children, mostly boys and a majority from Africa. Many went north to other European countries, while others looked for employment outside protected shelters. Children remaining in Italy were particularly vulnerable to trafficking in the informal agriculture, hospitality, and construction sectors, or were forced by traffickers into begging.