The 26 young Nigerian women, who died in the Mediterranean sea while crossing into Italy from Libya, were given a mass funeral and burial on Friday in Salerno, Italy.
It was gathered that a Roman Catholic bishop and a Muslim imam both said prayers at the simple ceremony in the southern city of Salerno, with 26 wooden coffins laid out on a stone dais while a single white rose was placed on the lid of each.
Out of the 26 women, only two of the women were identified. Marian Shaka, who was married, and Osato Osaro were the only two that were named. Both women were pregnant.
“It is very likely that these girls were victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation,” said Federico Soda, director UN migration agency IOM for the Mediterranean.
The 26 bodies were retrieved from the sea on Nov. 3 by a Spanish rescue ship, while some 64 people were unaccounted for and feared lost, bringing the total dead to around 90, said Flavio Di Giacomo, an IOM spokesman.
Survivors found on nearby rubber boats said the women were all Nigerian and had left Libya hoping to make it to Italy.
Meanwhile, Trisha Thomas, a reporter with Associated Press, said she did not see any representative or official from Nigeria at the ceremony.
“There were Nigerian women there who suffered through terrible journeys to reach Italy. Many gently touched the coffins,” she said.
Reacting to this, the senior special adviser to the president on foreign affairs and diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the matter will be thoroughly investigated.
IOM said at least 2,925 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean from Jan 1.-Nov. 5 against 4,302 last year.
It was learnt that Libyan authorities are working with the Italian government to block migrants from leaving Libya, leading to a sharp fall from the summer.