ABUJA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The death of 26 Nigerian women and girls on migrant boats in the Mediterranean Sea will not deter others from attempting the same perilous journey for a new life in Europe, activists say.
Their bodies were recovered at sea over the weekend by European rescue ships, and the victims may have been murdered, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
More than 11,000 Nigerian women and girls arrived in Italy by sea last year, up from 1,500 in 2014, and at least four in five were trafficked into sex work, according to IOM data.
“It is a matter of ‘try your luck’,” said Phil Inusa of the Girls’ Power Initiative in Benin, capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria, which screens films to highlight the dangers - such as death at sea - of being trafficked into Europe.
“The girls say: ‘That is those girls’ destiny. My own luck in life is different.’
“Some tell us afterwards that if they could see someone who will traffic them right away, they would go.”
More than nine in 10 Nigerian women smuggled to Europe come from Edo, a predominantly Christian state of 3 million people, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC).
A history of migration to Italy has fueled local hopes of easy money abroad - leaving people vulnerable to traffickers.
Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency (NAPTIP) said it was also showing videos of disasters at sea to communities around Edo.
“We even have people translate them into their various local languages, so that when they hear it, they will understand that this is a dangerous thing to do,” Josiah Emerole of NAPTIP told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. “But they keep moving.”
Many of the girls who watch the videos say they know about worse horrors than those they see in the films, said Augustine Onwubiko of the Committee For the Support of Dignity of Women, based in Benin.
“They tell you that they have heard about it. They even tell you more stories. Some will say it is not their (destiny).”
About 600,000 migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, have made it to Italy since 2014, the main arrival point in Europe for people fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty in Africa.
But after three years of mass arrivals, the number has fallen sharply since July, when Rome struck a deal with Libya to block what had become a lucrative route for people smugglers.
Reporting By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Additional Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Editing by Kieran Guilbert and Lyndsay Griffiths.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org