Italy Investigates Deaths Of 26 Nigerian Women At Mediterranean Sea

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Rescuers recover a dead body from the Spanish ship "Cantabria" in the harbour of Salerno, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 5 2017. The broadcaster adds that "twenty-three of the dead women had been on a rubber boat with 64 other people".

Italian authorities told CNN that they launched an investigation into the girls' deaths Tuesday, carrying out autopsies to determine whether they had been victims of sexual abuse or torture.

Three-quarters of the migrant children interviewed in a February UNICEF report said they had experienced violence, harassment or aggression at the hands of adults. Survivors were found grabbing on to parts of a boat, as the teens' bodies floated around them.

Among the 375 survivors were 90 women, eight of them pregnant, 52 children and some Libyan men and women on board.

The Nigerians are suspected to have been sexually abused and murdered at the sea.

Sub-Saharan Africans hoping to flee poverty or war have taken advantage of Libya's power vacuum, which has allowed smugglers to operate mostly without restraint.

According to NEMA, the 149 persons bring the total number of stranded Nigerians brought back to the country in the last five weeks to 975.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy so far this year is 30 per cent lower than last year - 111,716 through Friday compared to almost 160,000 in the same period of 2016, according to Interior Ministry figures.

Nearly 75 per cent of those migrants - about 111,500 people - landed in Italy, and the rest reached the shores of Greece, Cyprus and Spain.

The Italian government, facing an unending flow of people from Africa and an increase in anti-migrant sentiments from its people, wants to limit the thousands of refugees arriving on its shores each month.

"Police Prefect Malfi called this a human tragedy and said his office has appealed to neighboring towns to provide dignified burial for the Nigerian women".

The route from sub-Saharan Africa to Libya is also risky, especially for women.

In February, Unicef reported that levels of sexual violence and abuse along the Central Mediterranean migration route made it one of "the world's deadliest and most unsafe migrant routes for children and women".

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