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Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

Death of 26 migrant women speaks to greater failings in ongoing global crisis: Mochama

Canada must make provisions to protect female migrants, who face unique perils as they flee home, writes Vicky Mochama.

A woman rescued while trying to cross the Mediterranean on Monday. Women travelling on their own risk being robbed, raped and murdered.

Lisa Hoffmann / Sea-Watch via AP

A woman rescued while trying to cross the Mediterranean on Monday. Women travelling on their own risk being robbed, raped and murdered.

Italian authorities are investigating the deaths of 26 young Nigerian women whose bodies were recovered at sea. Initial reports say that they may have been “sexually abused and murdered as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean,” according to the BBC.

The violence they endured in their final days brings harshly to the forefront the unique dangers that female migrants face.

Like many tragedies arising out of the global migrant crisis, it also speaks to the ongoing failure to protect the most vulnerable.

The Canadian government has made much of its new feminist foreign policy. And truly, its goal — providing meaningful engagement with and leadership positions for women — is one way to increase the safety of women migrants. With a seat at the table, they can advocate for the changes they need.

Another would be to provide a relief plan for unaccompanied women to come to Canada. The emergency assistance provided to gay Chechens showed that at times of crisis, workarounds to the existing bureaucracy can be found.

It’s an imperfect solution; I can spot its flaws a mile away. But there is no perfect solution, especially at a time when the global policy response has been underwhelming, to say the least.

Recognizing the jeopardy that children face, the United Kingdom’s Dubs Amendment allotted spaces for unaccompanied migrant children to live there. In tone and aspiration, it was reminiscent of the World War II kindertransport which brought Jewish refugee children from Nazi Germany to the U.K. Indeed, Lord Dubs who led the charge for it was one of those children.

However, the amendment’s implementation has been far less responsive to this ongoing crisis. At current count, less than 500 out of the thousands of unaccompanied children will benefit from it.

Flawed though it may be, the Dubs Amendment provides an example that can be applied to the plight of migrant women on the move.

In a January report by Amnesty International, several women spoke about that plight, about the fear, harassment and violence they face.

Women with children are often responsible for the care and well-being of children, a burden that is less likely to fall on men.

Speaking to Al-Jazeera, Manal, a Syrian from Damascus said, "We have to take care of the children. That's a never-ending task. It's easier for men. They only have to worry about themselves."

One young woman, Reem, 20, told Amnesty International, “I never got the chance to sleep in settlements. I was too scared that anyone would touch me. The tents were all mixed and I witnessed violence...I felt safer in movements, especially on the bus, the only place I could shut my eyes and sleep...”

Women on their own risk being robbed, raped and murdered on the long and tense journey. For those who arrive somewhere safer, shame and trauma follows.

There is no idyll for women (yet) but there can be hope. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it can save lives.

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