More Women Making Dangerous Mediterranean Crossing - Many Victims of Abuse

Italy - Despite increasingly dangerous sea conditions, irregular migrants are continuing to across the Mediterranean, bringing the total number of arrivals in Italy this year to 154,075, according to figures newly released by the country’s Ministry of the Interior.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy by sea in the month of October was 15,279, a slight decrease from the 26,107 who arrived in September. The overall total of arrivals has now reached just under four times the number of arrivals recorded during the same period last year (38,882).

Syria remains the top sending country with 36,351 migrants in 2014, followed by Eritrea (33,872), Mali (8,899), Nigeria (8,031), Gambia (6,787), Palestine (5,044) and Somalia (4,965.) The increase in the number of Palestinians was notable – fewer than 1,000 arrived in Italy through the first six months of 2014.

Although October’s number represented a 40 per cent drop from the number of arrivals during September, IOM officials in Rome noted some worrying trends in the flow: among them, the growing presence of women, many considered potential victims of trafficking.

“In 2014 there has been an alarming increase in the number of women arriving: 16,839 in 2014 compared to 7,658 in 2013,” said IOM Italy Chief of Mission Federico Soda. “In particular we have noticed a sharp increase in arrivals of young women from Nigeria. Over 1,269 Nigerian women have arrived so far this year, a more than 300 per cent increase from the 392 who arrived in the same period during 2013.”

IOM has established – under the framework of the Praesidium project, co-financed by the Italian Ministry of the Interior and the European Commission – two anti-trafficking teams in Sicily and Apulia whose job it is to detect and identify victims of exploitation.

“We have to move fast. We start to talk to them immediately at the harbour, as soon as they land, and before they can be approached by those who organized their journey,” said Soda.

According to IOM counter trafficking specialists, many of the women interviewed confirmed that they had been sent to Italy as sex workers. In some cases, their statements led to the arrest of their alleged traffickers. A number of the women also reported being raped.

According to Soda, many girls come from the Edo State in Nigeria, where they were told that finding well-paid work in Italy is relatively easy.

“They soon understood that they had been cheated. During the trip they were repeatedly raped or forced to prostitute themselves in near slavery condition. Many ended up in brothels in Libya and were then sent on to Italy by the traffickers. Many of them had to swear an oath to repay the money for the trip in a voodoo ceremony, a psychological manipulation that sometimes makes it difficult to persuade them that they don’t need to pay off the ‘debt’ to their exploiters,” he said.

For more information, please contact

Flavio di Giacomo

IOM Rome

Tel: +39.347.089.8996/ +39.0644.186.207