ISTANBUL, TURKEY - 28 SEPTEMBER 2016: Abd Shabani (23), a Syrian refugee and brother of Musaab Shabani (a victim of the August 24th 2014 shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea), poses for a portrait in the Grand Bazaar, where he currently works, in Istanbul, Turkey, on September 28th 2016.
When Musaab Shababi left for Europe, Abd chose to stay behind in Turkey, where the brothers had sought refuge after the uprising against Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad began. Two days after the boat that was supposed to carry Musaab Shabani to Italy sank, his brother Abd started to worry. The last time he heard anything from Musaab was on the night that he set out. After the smugglers informed him it was time to leave, Musaab had sent Abd one last text. “I have just one favor to ask you,” it read. “If anything happens to me… you take care of [my son].”
On August 24th 2014, a boat carrying more than 400 migrants, departed from the coasts of Libya in the attempt to reach Italy, capsized in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea. Rescuers of the Italian Navy saved 352 people, and recovered 24 lifeless bodies.
Following the events of the Arab Spring in 2011, including Gaddafi’s death and Libya’s plunge towards chaos, clandestine crossings skyrocketed, as did the number of people drowning. In 2014 over 170,000 arrived in Italy and since then more than 10,000 perished in the Mediterranean sea.
Only a fraction of these bodies have ever been recovered, and, of the ones that have, the majority remain unidentified. In Sicily alone there are more than 1,500 graves of anonymous refugees and migrants–people from Syria and other war torn countries–who have drowned in shipwrecks at sea.
Despite the decades long persistence of the problem, Italy has yet to develop a comprehensive approach to handling the bodies of shipwreck victims. Many pieces of a functional body identification system are in place, but its overall effectiveness is crippled by a lack of coordination
- ©2016 Gianni Cipriano
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