02. November 2017 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „Refugee graves were a common sight in Libya. Now it’s Tunisia’s turn“ · Kategorien: Libyen, Tunesien · Tags: ,

The Guardian | 02.11.2017

A crackdown appears to be pushing the problem across the border in north Africa, with dozens of bodies now washing ashore

“The dead are someone’s husband, someone’s child, wife, sister or brother. Would you bury your loved ones in this manner?”

The short Tunisian man gestures towards makeshift graves containing the bodies of dozens of drowned migrants. This may have become a common enough sight across the border in Libya in recent years. Now a crackdown on people trafficking in that country appears to be pushing the problem into Tunisia.

“They are not at fault for being buried here. We are at fault. You are at fault. The world is at fault.”

His name is Chamseddine Marzoug. With the help of a small group of volunteers in the fishing town of Zarzis in the southern part of Tunisia, near the Libyan border, he is the one who cleans up when bloated bodies wash ashore or when fishermen pick up both living and dead migrants at sea.

A small 600 sq metre plot of land wedged between the town dump and an olive grove serves as an informal burial site. A gaping hole in the ground is ready to receive the next unfortunate. Plastic bags and rubbish are caught in the branches of the olive trees. From here, there is a view of the new football stadium on the horizon.

All around, heaps of sand constitute the latest graves.

“Please show respect and avoid stepping on them,” Marzoug warns. At the other end of the site, the wind has removed all trace of the graves of the drowned. There are no headstones or flags – no markers aside from the heaps of sand corroded by the wind.

Marzoug also oversees the relief efforts for the living, who end up at the local Red Crescent shelter. They receive milk, bread, soap, water, rice and, if there is any money, around £4.50 a week.

The former fisherman and taxi driver says more and more are coming in, both living and dead. The new arrivals are coming from Libya by the thousand, according to the Red Crescent.

Tunisia became something of a magnet for migrants and their smugglers earlier in the year, when efforts by the EU and in particular the Italian government to clamp down on trafficking in Libya pushed the problem north-west.

Marzoug is not shy of assigning blame, launching into a 10-minute lecture. “The truly guilty are the politicians keeping them from leaving. The migrants are African and no one is interested in them. But if it had been a man with blond hair and green eyes, you would all be interested.

“It is far from over. There might be 40% fewer now, but Libya is still in a state of chaos, and if you look at what’s happening now, there are over 100 different militias. And when the boats are intercepted and returned to the coast, the migrants simply make another attempt from Libya, or here from Tunisia as well.”

He reiterates an argument popular in these parts: the money the EU has spent on border control could be more usefully spent by investing in the countries the migrants come from. “Don’t invest in the corrupt governments, but invest in the people. Your money should go into the people’s pockets.”

In the past year, he and the other volunteers have buried 72 decomposed bodies. Over the years they have dug a total of 400 unmarked graves in the area. The last grave was dug a week ago. It was for a woman.

“I have pictures of her. Do you want to see?”

He pulls out a USB drive containing many pictures – happy memories much like our own: Marzoug together with his youngest grandchild, with his family, out at sea and together with other fishermen. Then the picture of the woman appears. She is floating face-down near the water’s edge. There are others: bloated bodies, half-naked bodies, bulging, discoloured faces and hands with the skin peeling off in big chunks.

When the dead are recovered by fishermen or discovered on the beach, Marzoug heads out with a policeman and sometimes with a representative from the local authorities. Occasionally they have to rent a delivery van. The body is brought to the hospital for a postmortem. It is then put in a bag and transported to the burial site, a grave already dug for the occasion.

Marzoug and his group of volunteers in Zarzis are in the process of crowdfunding money for a new plot of land intended to be the next burial site, hoping for better arranged graves with headstones and a small cottage where they can prepare the bodies – and a fence to encircle the site.

Before they cross the sea, the migrants dispose of their papers. Only one of the 72 bodies buried by Marzoug and the volunteers this year has been identified.

“Her name was Rosa Maria. The survivors told us her name when they were picked up by fishermen. She was from Nigeria.” Marzoug tells us of the woman and the child found close together on the beach.

“We cannot know for certain, but I believe they were mother and child. We buried them head to head so they can be together in death.”

Beitrag teilen

Kommentare geschlossen.