THE photo in The New York Times on November 7, 2017, was heartstopping: a black body bag suspended in midair against the dawn sky as a crane lowered it from a Spanish rescue ship and a line of silver hearses waited with empty coffins on the pier below. The headline read “26 Young Women From Nigeria Found Dead in the Mediterranean Sea.” The 26 women, mostly in their teens, had drowned when the overloaded inflatable dinghy they were traveling on from Africa to Europe capsized. It was one of the key moments in Europe’s four-year migrant crisis—like the viral photos of the two-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, whose fragile body had washed up on a Turkish beach in 2015— that shocked the world anew about the suffering and danger endured by those fleeing war and economic hardship for better lives elsewhere. “These young women were searching for freedom, and they found death,” says Monsignor Antonio De Luca, a bishop in Salerno, a port city in southern Italy where the women’s bodies were unloaded from the rescue ship and later laid to rest. “It is a tragedy for humankind,” adds Salvatore Malfi, then Salerno’s police prefect.
In the 20 months since Nigerian and Italian authorities have been investigating the accident to determine who was criminally responsible. As the media has moved on, however, the young female victims have been largely forgotten. Only two—Osato Osaro and Marian Shaka, both age 20—