Investigators consider physical and sexual abuse as one of the most likely causes behind the deaths of 26 migrant girls in the Mediterranean.
"Faced with the remains of only women and girls, the prefect of Salerno chose to open an investigation to clarify the circumstances of these deaths, not excluding the possibility of it being a case of homicide", Millman said.
Women are more likely to drown because they can not swim as well as men or because they sit on the lower levels of the vessels carrying them, away from life jackets, according to a 2012 study published in Sage.
In February, Unicef reported that levels of sexual violence and abuse along the Central Mediterranean migration route made it one of "the world's deadliest and most risky migrant routes for children and women". A total of 400 people were rescued on Cantabria and brought to Salerno. UNHCR spokesman Marco Rotunno said that the 26 dead were involved in a shipwreck two days ago off Libya.
However, it's less common for sex-traffickers to transport women across the sea, the AFP reported.More news: Geoffrey Kamworor wins NY marathon
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Rotunno said that roughly 90% of migrant women arrive having suffered some kind of physical abuse. Of the 400 people rescued and brought overseas Spanish vessel, Cantabria, 90 women and 52 minors, including a week-old-baby were saved.
The route from sub-Saharan Africa to Libya is also unsafe, especially for women.
For every five men who drown in the rubber boats trying to cross the Mediterranean, six women also die, according to migrant expert Sine Plambech, an adjunct professor at Columbia University.
The Guardian reported that the majority of the survivors in the rescue were either from Nigeria or other sub-Saharan countries such as Sudan, Ghana, and Senegal.
Until until November 1 this year, about 151,000 migrants survived the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe, according to the International Organisation for Migration.