The bodies of 26 teenage African girls were found floating in the Mediterranean sea on Nov. 7. It’s been more than a month since and very few details have been released about their deaths. Who were these girls? How did they get there? And why isn’t this story in the headlines? It is believed the victims were part of a sex trafficking trade from African to Europe and that the girls met their untimely death along the perilous refugee sea path to Italy that has already claimed many lives. The victims were between 14 and 18 years old.
Over the years, we have seen many headlines that flash briefly about the bodies of refugees found at sea, mostly those from Yemen and Syria, as they try to make their way to Europe. So far only two men in Italy have been arrested and charged in the deaths of the girls. Many of the girls as young of 14 suffered visible abuse. It is alleged the girls were picked up in southern Nigeria, held in Libya and then sent to Italy.
These girls were only a few of the many that may have been trafficked over the years — girls who have been tortured and raped. And we know very little about them.
These girls are nameless. They are forgotten victims. Their bodies, which were fished from the sea and placed in body bags, have not been identified or claimed. Since the early 1990s, girls have been taken from Nigeria and sent to Italy where they are forced into prostitution. According to the United Nations, there has been an increase in the amount of potential victims arriving in Italy by sea. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that in 2016, nearly 11,000 girls made the trip.
The IOM conducted a study that found since 2014. over 22,000 migrants disappeared globally while attempting to cross the Mediterranean. These are, of course, simply statistics. There is barely any background information on most of the refugees or those being forced into prostitution. Libya is serving as a modern day port for slavery and sex trafficking. It’s a topic that is being ignored by mainstream media, as many sub-Saharan migrants face bigotry in Libya. The darker your skin, the fiercer the abuse. Men are being forced into construction jobs with almost no pay and migrants are even auctioned off.
For the girls that do survive migration trips, they are greeted with intense racism and degradation of the body once forced into prostitution.
Situations like this are heartbreaking and are spinning out of control. That 26 African girls can disappear and nobody will notice is a debilitating thought. I can only imagine what their family and friends are feeling back home. These girls deserved much more — they deserve the headlines, to be remembered instead of being left floating in the sea.