While reporting on the drama of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, I’ve been startled by how many of them are pregnant or are traveling with a very young child.
When I’d ask why, they’d say they wanted to give birth in the safety of Europe.
But as I investigated, I learned there could be another, more ominous reason: Some of these pregnant women may be victims of sexual violence on the long route northward to Europe from sub-Saharan Africa — journeys that can take years.
“Sex is traded just like money, to bribe border guards or police,” said Encarnación Marquez, a social worker who helps migrants in Algeciras, on Spain’s south coast. “Some migrants sell sex to human traffickers, in exchange for smuggling them into Europe. This is the tragedy no one talks about.”