Human traffickers in northern Africa are reportedly injecting female refugees with a dangerous contraceptive to prevent them from getting pregnant after rape.
These smugglers are reportedly giving young girls, some as young as 13 years, large amounts of progesterone, which medical experts say can cause premature menopause, according to the Independent.
“They [female refugees] know they are very likely to be raped en route, so they have these injections in Ethiopia or Sudan to not get pregnant,” says Helen Rodriguez, a humanitarian gynecologist working in Lampedusa, Italy.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence are very common on the migrant trail in northern Africa and are often committed by drivers, middlemen, and mercenaries – the only people that refugees depend on to get to Europe.
Many of these refugees are young, unaccompanied girls fleeing war and persecution in war-torn African countries, such as Somalia, Nigeria, Libya, Sudan, and Eritrea.
Minors traveling alone are sexually assaulted and women are raped and forced to pay for smuggling with their bodies, according to the Independent.
Humanitarians working in refugee camps in Europe say they have noticed a growing trend in the use this contraceptive hormone among African female refugees.
Dr. Rodriguez says that almost a fifth of Eritrean female refugees she has seen were not having their monthly periods due to progesterone injections.
Recent studies indicate an unprecedented upsurge in deaths of African immigrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.
At least 3,800 migrants were reported to have drowned in the Mediterranean last year while trying to cross over to Europe using inflatable boats.
This number makes 2016 the deadliest year ever.
Despite these deaths, more refugees from Africa and the Middle East continue to make desperate attempts to reach Europe though the Mediterranean.
This has led to the proliferation of human trafficking networks along the North African trail. These traffickers have no regard for human life and are often accused of exposing migrants to some of the worst forms of abuse.
Amnesty International has been reporting widespread cases of rape, torture, and killings of refugees in Libya and other parts of North Africa by human traffickers who at times sell them off to criminal gangs as sex slaves.
With no functional central government since the fall of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has become a safe haven for criminal gangs and terror groups, such as ISIL, whose main occupation is human arms and drug trafficking.