The story is the same sad one which seems destined to be repeated over and over: On Sunday, between the Libyan coast and the island of Lampedusa , a migrant vessel sank and ten “would be” migrants drowned in the Mediterranean while sixty-two others were rescued.
Three of the ten bodies were that of women, accounts of which you do not often hear about. The photos and accounts of both death and survival are grim in their familiarity: so many young men who perish during dangerous trips in ill-equipped boats. But what of the women? Since immigration laws have changed in past years, it has changed the face of migration. It would seem that the dictum “only the strong survive” would apply here. Women are seen as a liability on a journey that is often a brutal testament to both mental and physical stamina, as well as the fact that they may have more trouble finding and keeping a job upon landing. Jobs for women are most commonly found in domestic service and pay considerably less on average, than what a man of migrant status would be paid. These women are valuable to the labor forces as they work cheaply and are willing. They often will move from job to job. Sometimes they place themselves in further peril as they may resort to prostitution in order to survive.
There are so many other constructs of gender that play a crucial role in how , why and women migrate, especially women arriving in Italy from the so-called “Third World” countries. Women migrants are often the unlucky victims of sexual abuse and exploitation of various kinds. They often arrive in their country of destination alone.
If illegal immigrants are “clandestino’s,” destined to not only hide in the shadows but deliberately not seen by the dominant culture, one could conjecture that women, by virtue of their sex alone, are even more so. It is a pathologizing condition, which wear’s one down in both body and soul and erodes the fabric of society. It is a personal condition that is often difficult to transcend.
Amnesty International reports “The desire of some European countries to prevent irregular migration (without permission to live and work in these countries) has undermined safe and timely rescue at sea.”
For those of you who like statistics here is one: As many as 13, 5000 migrants have died since 1998 in an attempt to make the perilous crossing in the Mediterranean in unsafe, overcrowded boats, often having paying dearly for the privilege. It is not known how many of them were women. Or pregnant.
Now, here is a fact: It was reported that a woman who was rescued among the aforementioned 62 was pregnant. It seems incredible in and of itself that she survived the journey. Only time will tell how she and her child will fare against the odds.