It is a herculean task, but authorities in Tunisia hope to identify the bodies of thousands of deceased migrants who have disappeared on the perilous journey to Europe by sea.
The recent recovery of 61 bodies near the eastern port Sfax has ignited this hope for more recoveries.
“We take the genetic identity, we keep it, we store it in the archives of the technical police and the forensic police until a certain point. Let’s say after 10 years, 20 years, we can recognize our own”, said Samir Maatoug, Head of the service of forensic medicine at the University Hospital of Sfax.
“We think it’s very important that these people are not forgotten and that these families have an answer.”
Forensic scientist Samir Maatoug and his team have gathered photos, medical data and other information on the 30 men, 29 women and two children aboard the migrant boat that capsized off the coast of Tunisia in early June. There were no survivors.
Celine Doutrelugne Jarrar is a delegate for Restoring Family Links and Migration at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“It’s a big job. And we think it’s very important that these people are not forgotten and that these families have an answer. Or at least that every effort is made to provide them with the answers, or at least the answers that are available”, she said
Dozens of bodies of foreign migrants are recovered from the sea off Tunisia every year.
A result of casualties of journeys towards Europe across the Mediterranean that ended in tragedy.
Tunisian authorities long interred them anonymously in makeshift cemeteries. But in recent years, the identification process has improved in Tunisia as well as some other Mediterranean countries.