Authorities Are Now Investigating Why 26 Teen Girls From Nigeria Were Found Dead At Sea

On Sunday, 26 girls, ages 14-18, were found dead in the Mediterranean Sea after their boat sank, The Washington Post reports, with authorities believing they were heading to Italy from Libya. 

Libya is a large port for people fleeing Africa right now and a hotspot for human trafficking, as The Post notes, and authorities believe the girls were Nigerian. 

The police chief of Salerno, Lorena Ciccotti told CNN that there would be autopsies and that there would be an investigation into if the girls were possibly tortured or sexually abused.

Salvatore Malfi, a top official in Salerno told Agence France-Presse  (AFP) that the girls deaths were a tragedy and said that, as investigations into whether there was foul play involved continue, police “need to see whether there are suspects to concentrate on or whether the murder inquiry will proceed against persons unknown.”

Malfi added to AFP that 23 of the girls were found near a dinghy that had reportedly sank over the weekend, however, he believed "they were on a dinghy that was also carrying men." 

Responding to concern that the boat may have been part of sex trafficking, however Malfi said "The sex trafficking routes are different. Loading women onto a boat is too risky, the traffickers would not do it as they could lose all their 'goods' -- as they describe them -- in one fell swoop."

Over the weekend, there were four rescue operations in the Mediterranean ocean with 400 people alone being saved aboard the Spanish ship, Cantabria, AFP reports. It’s a high trafficked route because migrants can hopefully hit shores in Italy, Greece, and other European countries. However, it’s also an extremely dangerous journey.

This year alone, 2,839 migrants have reportedly died trying to travel the Mediterranean, according to the International Organization for Migration.