A group of 26 Nigerian females, most aged between 14-18, were found dead at sea Sunday, according to multiple reports. The victims’ bodies are being investigated for signs of sexual abuse. According to reports, the group of women and children was likely murdered as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean to reach Italy.
According to reports, 23 of the girls were on a dinghy with 64 other immigrants, and three additional victims were found dead in the sea. The bodies were found during a rescue effort, discovered in a Spanish warship, Cantabria, which was carrying 375 migrants. Italian media has reported that some of the women’s bodies were being kept in a refrigerated section of the warship.
According to CNN, aid workers described a grim scene, with survivors hanging onto the remains of the vessel as the girls’ bodies floated nearby.
The majority of the 375 survivors were sub-Saharan Africans from Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, The Gambia and Sudan. Among them were 90 women, eight of them pregnant, and 52 children. There were also some Libyan men and women on board.
All of the migrants were take to Salerno, Italy.
Investigators suspect that the girls were raped by traffickers before being killed. According to the BBC, human smugglers charge each migrant about $6,000 to get to Italy. The first $4,000 of the fee is for the trans-Saharan journey to Libya, during which many migrants have reported being subjected to violent acts by the gangs, including torture and sexual abuse.
Thousands of Nigerians travel through the desert to Libya to cross the Mediterranean and enter Italy.
There were “no reports of particular critical health situations at the moment” from the remaining migrants, according to Italian media. Five of the immigrants on board the ship are helping police with their inquiries in relation to the deaths of the 26 women and young girls.
— Onlinemagazin (@OnlineMagazin) November 6, 2017
— CNN International (@cnni) November 6, 2017
— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) November 5, 2017
— OkayAfrica (@okayafrica) November 6, 2017
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