Twenty six Nigerian girls who died in the Mediterranean while crossing into Italy from libya were given a mass funeral and burial.
A Muslim imam and a Roman Catholic bishop both said prayers at the simple ceremony at the southern city of Salerno, with 26 coffins laid out on a stone dias.
A single white rose was placed on each lid. It is very likely that this girls were victim of trafficking for sexual exploitation, said Federico Soda, director UN migration agency IOM for the Mediterranean. A recent report of IOM report had estimated that 80% Nigerian girls arriving in Italy by sea might be trafficking victims. The bodies were retrieved from the sea on Nov. 3 by a Spanish rescue ship, while 64 people were unaccounted for and feared lost, bringing the total dead to about 90, Flavio Di Giacomo, an IOM spokesman.
Survivors found on a nearby rubber boats said the women were all Nigerians and had left libya for Italy for greener pasture. The only two identified were named as Marian Shaka, who was married, and Osato Osaro. Both were pregnant. Some of those who died were believed to have been as young as 14. Almost 115,000 migrants, mainly African men have reached Italy so far this year, according to government date released on Friday, against over 167,000 in the same period last year. IOM said at least 2,925 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean from Jan 1, -Nov. 5 against 4,302 people last year. The Italian government has worked with the Libyan government to block migrants from leaving the north African state, leading to a sharp fall in new arrivals since summer.
The government says its policy has cut the number of sea deaths, while critics says it has left thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in appalling conditions in Libya.