Arrests made in Italy over 26 women found dead in Mediterranean

Two men have been arrested in connection with the deaths of 26 Nigerian women, whose bodies were brought to the port of Salerno

(Photo: Elle UK)
(Photo: Elle UK)

Two men have been arrested and charged in Italy, as investigators look into the deaths of 26 Nigerian women, who are suspected to have been killed when trying to cross the Mediterranean.

The bodies of the women were brought to the port of Salerno, in the south of Italy, by the Spanish Cantabria on Sunday, as prosecutors opened an investigation over suspicions that the women may have been abused and murdered.

The Cantabria ship, which works as part of the EU’s Sophia anti-trafficking operation, recovered 23 bodies from one shipwreck and three from another. Another 53 are believed to still be missing.

The arrested men have been identified as Al Mabrouc Wisam Harar, from Libya, and Mohamed Ali Al Bouzid, from Egypt.

The two are believed to have been skippers for one of the boats and were identified by survivors, who were among the 375 brought to Salerno.

They have been accused of organising and trafficking at least 150 people on the two shipwrecks, but prosecutors have yet to make a direct link between the two and the women’s deaths, said Rosa Maria Falasca, chief of staff at Salerno’s prefecture.

(Photo: Global News)
(Photo: Global News)

Autopsies on the bodies should be completed over the next week.

The prefect of Salerno, Salvatore Malfi, told the Italian press that the women had been travelling alongside men and when the vessels sank, “unfortunately, the women suffered the worst of it”.

In response to concerns that the women were being trafficked for the sex trade, he added: “Sex trafficking routes are different, with different dynamics used. Loading women on to a boat is too risky for the traffickers, as they could risk losing all of their ‘goods’ – as they like to call them – in one fell swoop.”

Marco Rotunno, an Italy spokesman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), said his colleagues were at the port in Salerno when the bodies were brought in.

“It was a very tough experience,” he said. “One lady from Nigeria lost all her three children.”

 “It’s very rare to find a woman who hasn’t been abused, only in exceptional cases, maybe when they are travelling with their husband. But also women travelling alone with their children have been abused.”

The survivors were among over 2,560 migrants saved over four days. 

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