26 teenage girls found dead in Mediterranean Sea

Migrants disembark from the Spanish ship Cantabria in the harbor of Salerno, Italy, on Sunday. During the rescue mission, 26 teenage girls were found dead. Photo by Cesare Abbate/EPA-EFE

Nov. 6 (UPI) — Italian officials are investigating how 26 teenage girls died aboard a vessel carrying African migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.

The girls were all between 14 and 18 years old and believed to have come from Niger and Nigeria, CNN reported. Coroners were investigating whether the girls were sexually abused or tortured before they died. Lorena Ciccotti, Salerno’s head of police, said autopsies were expected to be conducted on Tuesday.

A Spanish warship patrolling the Mediterranean and conducting rescue missions over the weekend found the dead bodies in a rubber dinghy. The small vessel also contained several surviving migrants.

According to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Spanish military authorities rescued nearly 400 migrants over the weekend, almost all of them from sub-Saharan countries like Ghana, Senegal and Sudan, as well as Nigeria. Of the nearly 400 migrants, there were 52 children and 90 women, including eight pregnant women.

This year, more than 2,839 migrants have died while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe, the International Organization for Migration reported. Nearly 151,000 survived the trip this year.

Those numbers are less than in 2016, which saw 4,150 deaths along the same sea route by November last year, while more than 335,000 survived the trip and made it to Europe.

Despite the reduced death toll, the route to Italy many migrants take is still considered the deadliest.

“While overall numbers of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean by the eastern route were reduced significantly in 2016 by the EU-Turkey deal, death rates have increased to 2.1 per 100 in 2017, relative to 1.2 in 2016,” the IOM said in a report published in September.


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