As the world’s turmoil and poverty drive a relentless exodus to Europe, stories of disappointment, hardship and even death abound. Most involve the young men of Syria, North Africa and, increasingly, sub-Saharan Africa who have dominated the population shift; of the 170,000 migrants who arrived in Italy by sea in 2014, only about 18,000 were women.
But increasingly more women, some with children, are climbing into boats for the illegal journey, the authorities say. Vulnerable and usually penniless, they come seeking a better life but can instead find themselves caught up in a billion-dollar international market of human exploitation. Of these women, most remain in the shadows, under the control of the traffickers.