PALERMO, ITALY - 26 SEPTEMBER 2016: Angelo Milazzo (57), a local policeman in Siracusa formerly working in the Interagency Task Force for Combating Illegal Migration (or G.I.C.I.C., by its Italian acronym) who was assigned to identify the 24 victims of the August 24th 2014 shipwreck, poses for a portrait in Palermo, Italy, on September 26th 2016.
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.
Milazzo asked the public prosecutor for permission to open a Facebook profile under the name “SIRIA-GICIC.” Relying on the descriptions of the bodies contained in the forensic reports, the photos taken on board the rescue ships and during the examinations, and on the collection of personal items that were found along with the corpses, he would work backwards from these slivers to try to arrive at the living people who once animated the now anonymous cadavers. Facebook, he hoped, would help him get the information he needed from the families of the missing to identify the bodies and allow him to inform their relatives of the death.
The SIRIA-GICIC profile page on Facebook was created on October 10th, 2014, nearly two months after the shipwreck. At the time, 18 of the 24 bodies were still unidentified. Within a few months, Angelo Milazzo was able to identify all 24 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 migra
- ©2016 Gianni Cipriano
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