Current Date: 20 Apr, 2024

Families Are Furious As Tunisia Migrant Drown Victims Are Secretly Buried

.Anger is driving residents of Zarzis, in southern Tunisia, onto the streets in protest after authorities buried drowned migrants from the coastal city without informing families or attempting to identify some bodies

Neighborhoods across the city in Medenine governorate have been lit up with burning tyres as roads are blockaded.

Families Are Furious As Tunisia Migrant Drown Victims Are Secretly Buried

Families of the missing say the government has done nothing to ease their anguish. Others remain missing, and bodies continue to wash ashore.

A boat carrying migrants to Europe went missing on September 21 while carrying 18 people, which include a child of 1.

Authorities have been accused of negligence in initial attempts to look for the missing boat, even thwarting independent efforts with misinformation and subsequently not putting enough effort into the search for bodies.

This was compounded by bodies being buried without families being told or, in some cases, without being identified.

Zarzis city governor, Ezzedine Khelifi, told a local news outlet that they buried four bodies washed ashore who they suspected were migrants from the boat. But no DNA tests were conducted to confirm their identities.

Mr. Khelifi said they did not attempt to identify the bodies because the families thought their children were still alive and in Libya.

But after an outcry from city residents, the bodies were exhumed. One person was identified by their clothing, while the rest await DNA testing and other bodies from the sinking.

On Saturday, in the Suihel neighborhood where eight of the 18 people who died in the boat that sank came from families raged against the lack of action.

Salha Lassoued, the mother of Louay Abdel Karim and Mohamed Aziz Abdel Karim, who remain missing, says she is in agony without news.

She said, "We told them that we did not hear from our kids the moment we lost contact with the boat, but they would not lift a finger for two days."

"We stayed at the port all day and all night throughout those two days, and their [coastguard] boats would not move out to search."

Mrs. Lassoued said even when her family members attempted to take the search operation into their own hands, they were notified by a source who they claim was from the authorities but who has not been identified that their children were in Libya.

Mrs. Lassoued said, "We were begging them to go out and look for our kids, but they were pulling out bodies and burying them behind our backs."

So far, six of 10 bodies found by fishermen and officially retrieved by the Tunisian National Guard have been identified.

This bafflement and unease, combined with the authorities' mishandling, may partly explain the heavy toll of the tragedy on Zarzis and the residents' determination to uncover the truth.

Tunisian president Kais Saied expressed his most sincere condolences to the victims' families and said the accident is being followed up daily by his office.

He renewed his instructions to naval forces and local authorities to intensify their efforts to find the remains of victims.

Excellence Chukwuma Chukwunaedu

Excellence Chukwuma Chukwunaedu

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