The mayor of the Tunisian city of Zarzis has asked for solidarity from other coastal areas of the country to help bury the bodies of migrants who died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
It is a cry of pain launched by the mayor of the Tunisian town of Zarzis, Makki Larayedh, which for years has been suffering the tragic consequences of deaths in the Mediterranean of migrants that leave from Libya but do not manage to arrive in Europe.
The most recent was after a dinghy departed from Libya and capsized off the Tunisian coast of Zarzis on July 1, resulting in over 80 victims. In a press conference, the mayor urged all coastal cities to take some of the responsibility in dealing with the burial of migrants that drowned at sea.
Coroner service needed
"The city of Zarzis, which has buried 74 bodies in only a few days, must not bear all the burden alone," Larayedh said, while also asking that a coroner service be set up at the Zarzis regional hospital, that refrigerated transport vehicles be made available and that specialized personnel be trained in the region.
He underscored that the Zarzis town council had not received assistance from any international organization despite an increase in drownings and boat capsizing off the Zarzis coast in recent years.
Corpses recovered difficult to identify
In referring to the July 1 incident, which involved a dinghy with 86 migrants onboard - only three of whom survived - the mayor noted that between July 4 and July 13, some 61 bodies had been recovered on the Zarzis coast, 45 of which on July 11 alone. The bodies were then transferred to the Gates hospital for genetic analysis before being brought back to Zarzis for their burial ''out of respect for human dignity."
''All these efforts were made with the limited means of the town council in collaboration with the civil defense and the coast guard,'' Larayedh said, denying categorically that mass graves were used, as some media have claimed.
Since 1998, the Zarzis town council has had to deal with the problem of migrants that died in this part of the Mediterranean. ''However, the countless bodies recovered and buried in Zarzis are difficult to identify due to a lack of archives,'' the mayor said, noting that ''this phenomenon will not end here.''