Warning: this story contains disturbing imagery
London: There is an “invisible catastrophe” in the Mediterranean: families who have lost their loved one beneath the waves and do not know where they are buried – or even if they are dead.
A new report says many of the thousands of refugees and migrants who have died crossing the Mediterranean have not been identified, leaving their families traumatised.
And many of the bereaved are not being properly cared for, says Dr Simon Robins, lead author of the Mediterranean Missing report and a senior research fellow at the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York.
–One Muslim refugee was even told by a trauma counsellor to “go and get a girlfriend” to get over the loss of his wife in a shipwreck.
Meanwhile the dead are buried in nameless graves in cemeteries from the Greek islands to Sicily, and not enough is being done to connect them with their loved ones, according to the report, which will be officially launched on Wednesday on the Greek island of Lesbos.
In the last year and a half, more than 6000 have died or gone missing making the dangerous crossing to Europe.
“Behind the visible catastrophe of shipwrecks and deaths in the Mediterranean is an invisible catastrophe in which bodies are found and not enough is done to identify them and inform their families,” Dr Robins said.
“This is devastating for their families back home. They likened it to a form of torture where they are caught between hope and despair, not knowing whether they would ever see their loved one again, not knowing if they should give up hope and focus on the rest of their lives.
“More than anything these people want to know if their loved one is alive or dead. If they are dead, they want to bring their relative home and have them buried visibly in their community.”