“I couldn’t sleep or say what was happening to me.”

This site Nigerian woman who is on 30 years wants to tell his story, but requests anonymity. The website pain seeps into her words, into what she says, but above all into what she does not say and what the journalists who listen to her understand all too well. Arrived in Barcelona in 2017 and until 2019 was trapped by a human trafficking exploitation network. He doesn’t give details of what happened during those years, but he does give details of the… psychological impact of the horror experienced.

“It was very hard for me, a very difficult experience and when I arrived in Barcelona I didn’t talk to anyone, I couldn’t share with anyone how I felt.” she explains with the help of a translator. This young woman is one of the women served by the association Unitat Municipal contra el Tràfic d’Èssers Humans (UTEH) in Barcelona, which works in collaboration with the Vall d’Hebron Hospital, which provides psychological care. 40% of people treated at UTEH need psychological care and 40% of people treated at UTEH need psychological care. 77% were victims of sexual exploitation.

The young woman arrived in Barcelona in 2017 deceived. “I was promised that I would go to Europe, that in a year I could have a job and papers, that I would travel for free. They have become my friends,” she says of her exploiters. Already in Barcelona, she managed to break up with them in 2019, when he joined UTEH. “I didn’t sleep at night and couldn’t really explain what was wrong with me. I was talking to myself…” The UTEh psychologists told him that they couldn’t help her if she didn’t tell them what was wrong.

She started doing it, talking. He started to feel better. He started sleeping and now he can tell what happened. Y He knows he will never go back to Nigeria, although he has contact with his children, who live there, and who he wants to bring to live in Barcelona.

Created in 2016

The Unitat de Tràfic d’Èssers Humans de Barcelona, ​​located within the Direcció de Feminismes i LGTBI of the town hall, was created in 2016 with the aim of . to end human trafficking, illegal sexual exploitation, forced labor or any other modern form of slavery.

Psychological care at UTEH is provided by the UTEH psychiatry department. Vall d’Hebron Hospital (Barcelona). The hospital and the city council today presented the semi-annual report of the unit. In 2020, the UTEH welcomed 227 people and in 2021, 229. Although, as explained by the municipal councilor Laura Perez, tenienta de alcaldía de Drets Socials, Justícia Global i Feminismes i LGTBI, “hablar de perfiles es complejo”, el 77% of people helped were victims of sexual exploitation. Forced begging and forced crime account for 2.5% each.

They are mainly women between the ages of 20 and 40. In addition, between 10% and 15% were transgender women and more than half of the victims are from Nigerian nationality. the unit also notes an increase in forced labor trafficking, whose increased from 6 to 10%, principally at men’s. 100% of the people helped in the UTEH present a “serious psychological impact”.

Physical and mental damage

The website situations of violence, coercion and exploitation suffered by the victims led to disturbances and damage to the physical and mental health. For this reason, the UTEH works in collaboration with the psychiatry department of the Vall d’Hebron hospital. “Psychiatric treatment is an essential service to support recovery processes”, has focused on Mar Ramos, psychiatrist in the transcultural psychiatry program in Vall d’Hebron, which treats people referred by UTEH.

The unit cares for people who live in situations of “high stress” who have “anxiety disorders and severe anxiety disorders”, and post-traumatic stress or affective disorders, with many difficulties in sleeping or eating. “The main difficulty is to establish a trust relationship in which the person can seek help whenever they need it, without judgment or discrimination, and where we work to rebuild their self-esteem, self-respect and autonomy from a place of proximity “, she added. The majority of victims come from countries where there are still a lot of stigma around mental health.

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