Italy’s southern city of Salerno held a mass funeral on Friday for 26 young women from Nigeria who drowned earlier this month trying to cross the Mediterranean.
Twenty-six coffins were laid out in Salerno’s Monumental Cemetery on Friday morning, watched by a military guard, local politicians, rescue workers and journalists.
A Catholic archbishop and a Muslim imam both said prayers.
Each coffin bore a white rose on top, though only two were marked with names: Marian Shaka and Osato Osaro.
The bodies will be buried in different cemeteries around Salerno.
The city’s mayor declared Friday a day of mourning. Local schools were asked to hold a minute of silence, while light displays in the city centre were switched off on Friday evening in remembrance.
The girls’ bodies were recovered at sea and brought to Italy on 3 November.
Post-mortem examinations revealed that 25 of the victims had drowned, while one had a wound to her side.
All of the girls are believed to have been Nigerian nationals between 14 and 30 years old. Five have been identified so far.
Two of them were pregnant, including Osaro with twins. Her coffin bore a pink and a blue rose in their memory.
At least 100 other people believed to have been travelling with the women are still missing, all feared drowned.
A Spanish military ship rescued around 400 survivors, as well as the 26 bodies, in the Strait of Sicily in early November. They were attempting to make the crossing between Libya and Italy when the rubber boats carrying them capsized.
More than 2600 migrants are estimated by international organisations to have drowned in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year while many more are believed to have died en route.
The loss of the girls has been described by the Nigerian foreign ministry as “a monumental loss and a sad moment for our country”. Abuja has called for an international investigation into the incident.
According to the UN, 80 percent of young Nigerian women arriving in Italy are already in the clutches of prostitution networks, or quickly fall under their control.
Source: The Local/Italy