After sex workers protest, Brussels names street for Nigerian, 23, stabbed 17 times by client

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Eunice Osayande believed she was cut out for the big screen. When an opportunity from a film agency’s headhunters based in Brussels came knocking in 2016, the 21-year-old grabbed it.

She left Nigeria for Belgium, where the grass, she believed, was greener on the other side of the fence.

The initial problem of settling down into European ways of life didn’t bother her much. A typical Nigerian. Even the utter disappointment she met when her recruiters received her didn’t discourage her.

Brussels is not Nigeria. Can’t be. No matter what. Try, girl.

She plunged right into what she had to do—the work that later ended her dream and life. It is what undocumented migrants do to tide themselves over the storm of regularizing their migration.

Her co-workers in the city included Nigerians, too. Many of them undocumented.

Eunice’s situation comes across as familiar. The headhunters nailed her down to some tough contract terms she had to sign on—not as actress now. Not as a domestic. Not even as a farm hand.

According to reports, the scheme that brought her to Belgium required she pay $52, 000.

That amount covered her flight from Nigeria, her rents in Brussels, and a fee the schemers charged her.

Because she was not documented yet, the odds were against her.

She couldn’t inform the police. In that middle of nowhere, she could demand her return to Nigeria. And the schemers threatened her, too.

So Eunice joined a community of stranded women that carry out illegal work in the city. She hoped she would pay up someday and be free.

But it wasn’t easy hawking her body long and well enough to rake up $52,000.

She once caved in. Tearing up, she called a charity that caters to abused sex workers and migrants trafficked into prostitution.

Whatever help Eunice got, it was not enough leave the community.

In June 2018, she went to service a client in the Gare du Nord district. Nothing foreboding about the invite—just one of those call services.

She got a murderous client on her hand that day. An argument came up, and the angry customer stabbed her.

She died later.

A post mortem revealed she had 17 gashes all over her body.

She was 23. Her killer was 17.

Her death sparked a protest in Brussels. Maxime Maes, director of the UTSOPI sex workers union in Brussels, organised it.

“Eunice’s death has been extremely distressing, especially for undocumented migrants in the area where she worked,” she told the BBC.

“The area has seen increasing violence and the most marginalised women are targeted.”

The killer was already charged with Osayande’s murder and is awaiting trial.

Four members of the trafficking ring were also arrested. They bagged prison sentences of up to four years.

Eunice’s story drew more emotion—more than just seeing justice done. It highlights the plight of undocumented migrant women in Brussels.

So the city said it wanted to draw attention to all the “forgotten women who are victims of human trafficking, sexual violence and femicides”.

The city authorities decided to name a street after the slain Nigerian, too.

It has been doing that in honoring such women.

But that will be the first named after a sex worker in the country.