Fraudsters have tricked scores of Nigerians by selling them football World Cup fan passes to travel to Russia, leaving many stranded and penniless, victims and anti-trafficking campaigners say.
Some Nigerians told AFP they used the official Fan IDs to come to Russia with the promise of finding work or even playing professional football themselves.
Others said they came to watch World Cup matches but got stranded when their return plane tickets were cancelled by bogus travel agencies that booked them.
Ismail Olamilekan, 21, and his brother Sodiq, 25, said they paid 250,000 naira (600 euros, $700) each to a man in Lagos for their Fan IDs.
“The man told us that with the Fan ID we could get a job and stay here,” Ismail told AFP at a hostel on the outskirts of Moscow.
“But when we got here we discovered that it was a fraud, that he had just collected the money and lied to us.”
The plastic-coated passes issued by the Russian government enable foreign fans with match tickets to enter the country without a visa during the World Cup — but they expire before the end of July.
It was not clear how the agents obtained the Fan IDs that they sold. A FIFA spokesman stressed that the Fan IDs system was implemented by the Russian communications ministry.
FIFA “continues to make efforts to identify and curb unauthorized ticket sales,” he added.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news briefing it was a matter for the consular authorities of the countries concerned.
One group of about a dozen Nigerians spent days sleeping at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport.