« There is no official record of the number of refugees who go missing crossing the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe. Ingeborg Eliassen of the Investigate Europe network explores why a European database of migrant deaths does not exist. »
MYTILINI, Greece – « Along an empty corridor, a handwritten note that reads “Register marriages, deaths, births here” signposts the cramped office of Aphrodite Andrikou, a municipal registrar in Mytilini, the capital of the Greek island of Lesbos.
There have been an awful lot of deaths to register on this island lately. In the early months of 2016, the cooling container outside Mytlini’s hospital was often full, and staff had to lay dead bodies inside the building.
Andrikou and her two colleagues have worked many long evenings and missed many family Sunday lunches to fill out all the death protocols since late 2015.
“I’m not complaining, we must care about the dead. That is our job,” says Andrikou. “This drama and these people have become part of our lives. Often I have been very sad. There were times when I cried a lot.”
In a normal year, approximately 400 people die in the harbor town of Mytilini. But recent years have not been normal.
In 2015, 856,723 refugees and migrants made it across the narrow stretch of the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek islands. The population of Lesbos is around 86,000.
The numbers have steeply declined since March 2016, when the E.U. made an agreement with Turkey to stem migrant boats. Yet the number of refugees and migrants making the longer, even more dangerous Mediterranean crossing from north Africa to Italy has continued to grow.
The Mediterranean Sea is becoming deadlier every year. The U.N. estimates that at least 5,096 people died or disappeared at sea while trying to reach European soil last year. That is an increase from an estimated 3,771 deaths in 2015 and 600 in 2013.
These are estimates rather than scientific figures. Both the International Organization for Migration and the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) try to keep track of deaths based on information from a combination of sources: national coast guards and pathologists, media reports, data from aid agencies and interviews with survivors.
But no European authority has yet taken on the task of counting the dead on Europe’s frontiers. Until then, there will be no official record of the dead. » (…)
Photo@ Ingeborg Eliassen; One part of the cemetery in Castellammare del Golfo in Sicily has been designated for migrants who have drowned in their attempt to reach Italy from northern Africa.
Sur le même thème voir :
Évelyne Ritaine, « Quand les morts de Lampedusa entrent en politique : damnatio memoriæ » , dans Effets-frontières en Méditerranée : contrôles et violences, Cultures & Conflits, 99-100, 2015, (en ligne)
Dossier/ I morti del Mediterraneo, Intrasformazione (online), 2016, 5 (1)
Et notre rubrique « Migrants à la mer » :