Shipwreck of Italy: after a tragedy, no peace for the dead or the living

(CNN) Two weeks later a boat full of migrants sank off the coast of southern Italy, there is still no peace for the living or the dead, and the missing — mostly children — continue to wash up on the beaches.

The latter – a girl of five or six years – was discovered on Saturday morning, bringing the worst since the ill-fated boat broke up on the rocks on February 26 outside the village of Cutro at 74. Almost a half were minors.

The local coroner’s office gave the names of several dead, including Torpekai Amarkhel, a 42-year-old journalist from Afghanistan, who was killed along with her husband and two of her three children.

Their other child, a seven-year-old daughter, is among the approximately 30 people who are still missing, presumed dead, since the tragedy.

Amarkhel had fled Afghanistan with her family after the crackdown on women, her sister Mida, who had emigrated to Rotterdam, told Unama News radio, a United Nations project in which Amarkhel was involved.

The bodies are still being discovered nearly two weeks after the wreck.

Shahida Raza, who played football and hockey for the Pakistan national team, he was also among the dead. A friend said he was traveling in hopes of securing a better future for his disabled son.

Initially, those found were given alphanumeric code numbers, instead of names. When first responders found the body of 28-year-old Abiden Jafari from Afghanistan, they identified her only as KR16D45 – KR for the nearby city of Crotone, 16 because she was the 16th victim found, D for woman or woman , and 45. , his estimated age.

But after taking her to the morgue, they discovered that she was a women’s rights activist who had been threatened by the Taliban, who probably had her risk her life at sea.

The body of a six-year-old boy, first identified as KR70M6, was named by his uncle as Hakef Taimoori.

The uncle had a family photo that showed the boy wearing the same shoes he had when he washed up on the beach. His parents and two-year-old brother also died in the disaster. A third brother remains among the missing.

No homecoming for the dead

The dead were also caught up in a fight between the Italian state and family members.

The Ministry of the Interior ordered that all the bodies be transferred from Calabria where the caskets were exposed in an auditorium, to the Islamic cemetery of Bologna for burial, in accordance with Italy’s protocol for irregular migrants that he dies trying to enter Italy.

Family members who survived the wreck or came from other parts of Europe to claim the remains of their loved ones protested with makeshift signs and a sit-in in front of the auditorium on Wednesday.

After a tense negotiation, the Prefecture of Crotone confirmed to CNN that 25 families, mostly Afghan and Syrian, agreed to bury their loved ones in Bologna.

All those who have not been identified will also be buried in Bologna with the remains of a Turkish national who has been identified as one of the human traffickers.

Pieces of wood have washed up on a beach, two days after a boat carrying migrants sank off Italy’s southern Calabria region.

Many of those who died will not be brought home to be buried.

The fate of the rest remains a point of negotiation, but the mayor of Crotone Vincenzo Voce said that the Italian state will pay for any repatriation either to the countries of origin or to be buried with family members elsewhere of Italy.

The Italian Ministry of the Interior told CNN that it could not comment on what happens to the remains of the victims, but confirmed that the past protocol is not to pay to repatriate someone who died trying to enter Italy as and irregular migrant, but to make the country of origin pay. costs In the last decade, there have been no repatriations, the ministry said.

Of the 82 survivors, three Turkish citizens and one Pakistani citizen were arrested for human trafficking, and eight people are still hospitalized.

Most of the survivors were moved this week to a hotel in Crotone after human rights defenders led by Italian left-wing politician Franco Mari protested the conditions in which they were held, which included a shared bathroom for the ‘men and another for women near the dormitories that include only. benches and mattresses on the floor for sleeping.

Mari, who visited the reception center, tweeted that none of the survivors had sheets, towels or pillows. Twelve others were moved to a reception center for unaccompanied minors.

Questions about rescue

In the background of the saga about what to do with the survivors and victims, there is a growing firestorm about the rescue itself.

A surveillance plane for European border control Frontex had identified the ill-fated vessel the day before it sank and had notified the Italian Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard said in a statement that the vessel was not identified as a migrant boat, and that, however, it did not appear to be in distress.

Heat-sensing surveillance images released by the Coast Guard show that only one person was visible aboard the vessel when they flew over.

Survivors told media and human rights groups that they were locked in the ship’s hull and allowed to come up for air at intervals during the four-day journey from Turkey.

The Crotone Prosecutor’s Office confirmed to CNN that it had opened a criminal investigation into the circumstances of the failed rescue after more than 40 human rights associations and NGOs signed a petition to request all public records to establish if someone has not provided assistance to the boat in accordance with maritime law.

On Thursday, the Council of Ministers led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met on the disaster in Cutro and said that they will focus on targeting trafficking rings and increase the prison sentence for human traffickers at 30 years old.

Protests have erupted against Italy’s government, which has made stopping the migrant boats a priority.

Many of the government cars were rammed with stuffed animals by protesters in Cutro holding signs saying “not in my name” to protest against the blocking of migrants and refugees from entering Europe through Italy .

The ministers also discussed “accelerating the mechanism for applying for asylum” instead of increasing the quota, which remains to accept 82,700 migrants who qualify for asylum in 2023. So far this year, more than 17,600 people have arrived in Italy by sea.

In 2022, 105,131 people will enter the country by sea. The process to apply for asylum often takes between three and five years, depending on the country of origin. People who are not from asylum producing countries, but are economic migrants, are repatriated to their countries of origin.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said Afghan citizens who survived would be prioritized for asylum. It is also unclear whether those who do not qualify will be repatriated to their home countries.

Meloni’s right-wing government has vowed to crack down on human traffickers and NGO rescue ships. But the boats keep coming – hundreds of migrants were rescued this weekend – and the signs are that they are arriving sooner than ever. This tragedy is unlikely to be the last.

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