Dozens of Nameless Nigerian Women Buried In Italy

About 26 young Nigerian migrants, who had died trying to cross from Italy to Europe, were buried Friday in Italy by the government of the Mediterranean country. The women were said to have been honored with an interfaith funeral, following the recovery of their bodies November 3.

Out of the 26 deceased, whose bodies were recovered by Spanish rescue ships, only two have been identified, namely Marian Shaka, a Muslim, and Osato Osara, a Christian.

Prosecutors are presently at working trying to reach relatives of the others, using phone numbers the women had hidden in their clothes before setting off from Libya’s lawless shores. So far, investigators have reached family members of three of them. Relatives were able to provide general descriptions of their girls, and confirmed they hadn’t heard from them.

Autopsies showed all but one drowned. The other had internal bleeding from a ruptured liver as a result of blunt trauma before falling in the water. None bore signs of recent physical or sexual abuse, prosecutors said in a statement Friday. Two of the women were pregnant.

Overall, 100 people were believed to have drowned in the crossing. The other bodies were lost at sea. They had all set off aboard a blue rubber raft. Sixty-four survived.

On Friday, 26 wooden coffins were laid out in a circle in the middle of Salerno’s cemetery for the interfaith funeral ceremony. There was no indication the Nigerian Embassy or Consulate sent a representative.

Salerno Archbishop Luigi Moretti told the crowd that the women “lost their lives as they were seeking freedom and a better life.”

“And we give the last farewell not only to the 26 girls but also to two lives that these girls were carrying in their wombs,” he added.

Imam Abderrhmane Es Sbaa offered a prayer before he and Moretti blessed the coffins, with Moretti sprinkling holy water on them. The crowd silently passed by, placing white roses on each one.

Overall this year, nearly 168,000 migrants have arrived in Italy, a 32-percent decline over last year thanks to a deal Italy struck with the Libyan government and its militias to curb the exodus. The U.N. refugee agency estimates around 3,000 have died trying, though the number is likely much higher given the unknown number of shipwrecks that are never reported.