Group reburying boat migrant remains in Germany after 'inhumane' treatment

German activists have slammed the treatment of the bodies of migrants

Migrant burials
Pallbearers lower a coffin containing the remains of a female refugee, in front of empty seats for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and members of the government and administration, during a muslim funeral at Gatow cemetery in Berlin, Germany, June 16, 2015.Fabrizio Bensch/REUTERS

Burial conditions for migrants who die attempting to cross the Mediterranean are "inhumane", say a group of German activists who have exhumed some of the bodies in Italy and Greece and brought them to be buried in Berlin instead, drawing attention to Europe's seeming apathy to the Mediterranean migrant crisis.

According to the Center for Political Beauty, which intends to "tear down the walls surrounding Europe's sense of compassion", there have been cases of migrant bodies disposed of in garbage bags and bodies found abandoned in Sicilian warehouses.

They also report that in some cases, migrants are not given proper religious burial rites and cemeteries are becoming too full to give the dead proper burials.

Yasser Almaamoun is a Syrian volunteer who organises contact between the Center for Political Beauty and family members of migrants who have made the journey to Germany but now want help in bringing the bodies of their loved ones there too in order to bury them properly. He tells Newsweek: "Bodies are being stored in fridges in hospitals. Recently some were stacked up in rubbish bags in an Italian hospital, and the blood was coming out of these bags - there were about 17 bodies."

In response, over the last two months, the group has begun exhuming bodies from Italy and transporting them to Berlin, having first consulted with the migrants' families who already reside in Germany.

"The German government's worst nightmare is coming true," organisation's website declares. "We will re-transform Europe into a continent of immigration."

Yesterday, a Muslim burial of two victims of the migrant crisis, a Syrian mother and her two-year old child who drowned when their ship capsized in March, took place in the Muslim section of Berlin's Gatow Cemetery.

The woman's husband and three other children survived the shipwreck but due to laws that restrict the movement of asylum seekers within Germany, the husband and three children who survived the shipwreck, could only watch the funeral via a live-stream..

"It was a great relief for him to watch his wife's funeral", says Almaamoun. "He saw his wife sinking in the water."

"For Muslims, the greatest honour to the dead is to bury them," he explains. "The dead should be buried as soon as possible."

Tomorrow, the second in a series of burials will take place.

At the time of writing, the group has managed to raise €47,079 from 1,580 people in just two days which will fund the transportation and burials of the migrants. The title of the crowdfunding page reads: "The dead are coming".

The page goes on to detail how 10 "inhumane" graves have been exhumed so far in Italy, and additional funerals will take place around Berlin this week, although the exact locations of each funeral won't be revealed until six hours before they are due to take place because of the "explosive nature of the intervention." Seven other families are also considering the burial, according to Almaamoun.

It is not the first time concerns have been raised about what happens to the bodies of migrants who have drowned trying to reach Europe.

According to Dr Neil Falzon, the director of Aditus, a human rights NGO situated in Malta, the bodies of migrants there are buried in large common graves, with often nothing more than a number being given to each corpse. It is often impossible to establish the identity or religion of the migrant being buried.

Falzon has told Newsweek that across Europe, there are "no harmonised rules, no formal procedures for collecting information or items and objects in case one day the family of a migrant turns up looking for a lost loved one".

Morris Tidball-Binz, head of forensic services for the International Committee of the Red Cross explains that while forensics standards in Europe are generally high, in remote areas in Greece and Spain the resources and expertise available can be lacking.

"It is to be expected when shipwrecks happen in deep sea waters, corpses will quite often drift sometimes for weeks or months before maybe being washed to coasts, and the state of preservation will vary accordingly," he says. "The longer the time since death, the more difficult it is for forensic experts to identify the remains."

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