This weekend, more than 2,560 people were rescued in the throes of the Mediterranean Sea as the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean conducted one of the toughest missions so far this year. In total, thirty-four bodies were recovered from the water, 26 of which could be teenagers from Nigeria. Most died due to the fact that they used rubber dinghies for transportation through the Mediterranean to Italy.
The most of the migrants rescued were West African nationals, but among them were Bangladeshis, Eritreans, Egyptians, Sudanese, Moroccans, Syrians and Libyans.
Federico Soda, Director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean claims, “It is very likely that these girls were, in fact, victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. A recent IOM report has estimated that 80 percent of Nigerian girls arriving in Italy by sea may be victims of trafficking.”Already, evidence of sexual abuse on these trips is coming to light as one testimonial by a survivor claims that she had been raped on the voyage.
Consequently, Italian authorities have launched an investigation into the cause of death on Sunday, Oct. 5. However, results autopsies of the dead women and other victims have yet to be released, and they surely will shed light on whether or not these passengers were sexually abused.
Others, however, are unsure. Salvatore Malfi, the prefect of the Italian port city of Salerno, stated that coming to a theory about prostitution is premature due to the lack of forensic evidence. Additionally, Malfi points out that the girls travelled with other men in the dinghy, which reduces the likelihood that they were the product for prostitution lords. According to him, prostitution routes are strategically different than the routes taken by refugees because loading so many women onto one boat runs the risk of someone losing “all of their goods” because the risks of crossing the Mediterranean are hefty.
Whether or not the deaths of these girls are the result of the trafficking of migrants remains to be discussed, but it sheds substantial light on an already settled idea: young migrants are prime targets for human trafficking.
The migrant crises is a perfect breeding ground for human trafficking because children are often displaced from their families. In January of 2016, the EU policy agency reported that at least 10,000 unaccompanied children have dropped off the radar of official agencies since arriving in Europe. Children between the ages of six months and 10 years can be sold for prices between €4,000 (£3,000) to €8,000, although amounts of up to €40,000 have been reported in some cases.
It is already dismal enough that the refugee crisis of modern times is one of the worst migrant crises seen in history, and yet it has never been close to holding a permanent spot on the news cycle. Albeit that the news is pretty consistent (many people are dying, including children, and there’s no room to put them anywhere), it holds shell-shocking horror that is enough to constitute a permanent conversation about it. And leaving these things unsaid allows things like human trafficking on such a large scale to happen largely unnoticed.
The selling of children is not a topic that should be left on the back-burner.