Cemetery for migrants inaugurated in Reggio Calabria | Photo: ANSA
Cemetery for migrants inaugurated in Reggio Calabria | Photo: ANSA

A cemetery was inaugurated on June 10 by the Caritas charity in the city of Reggio Calabria in southern Italy for 45 migrants who died in June 2016 when trying to cross the Mediterranean towards Italian shores.

"This place should be a strong signal to both national and European institutions: everyone has the right to leave and we all have the duty to welcome," said the priest Marco Pagniello during the June 10 handover of the the 'migrants' cemetery' created by the Catholic charity Caritas in Armo in the city of Reggio Calabria, southern Italy.

Pagniello added that the Italian branch of Caritas "immediately supported this project, with its own resources and by supporting the large efforts made by the territory."

A prayer was then said at the graves dug with the funds from tax donations to the Catholic Church.

The graves and the cemetery are an attempt to restore a bit of dignity to 45 migrants that died during an attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to the Italian shores.

In attendance were the metropolitan bishop of Reggio Calabria-Bova, priests, representatives of other religious communities, mayors Paolo Brunetti and Carmelo Versace, prefect Massimo Mariani, Reggio-Bova Caritas director Maria Angela Ambrogio, and volunteers active in migrant reception activities.

Place to pray for the victims

In June 2016, the town council administration made the space available for the burial of the victims' corpses. At that time there were only a few flowers to decorate the mounds of earth: no names, lined up one alongside the other.

The efforts and attention of the Metropolitan Diocese, with the voluntary tax donations to the Catholic Church, made it possible to create the 45 gravestones.

The project was also supported by fundraising by the activist Martin Kolek and of other volunteers involved in rescuing migrants at sea.

A stone slab recites verses from the Bible written in Italian, English, and French. Nearby is another stone slab that depicts Africa and Europe, acting as a sort of monument.

"We should not call this an 'emergency' of migrant boat landings. It has become a systemic phenomenon that must be dealt with through regular tools," said Prefect Mariani, noting that as part of her visit to Reggio Calabria, Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese has announced that more resources will be made available for areas of the country most acutely affected by migration.

Versace and Brunetti then spoke of those days of June 2016. "We selected this area here in Armo to bury these victims," they said, as a "place to pray for these victims without forgetting the many that have disappeared in the Mediterranean. It is a tragedy that we can never get used to."


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