Lost in the sea: & # 039; Miles & # 039; of dead migrants never identified

<pre><pre>Lost in the sea: & # 039; Miles & # 039; of dead migrants never identified

In 2006, Khady Dieye's husband left the family home on the north coast of Senegal and boarded a canoe hoping to reach Spain.

"Since then, we have not heard from him," said Dieye, who lives in the small fishing village of Ndiebene-Gandiol, near Saint-Louis.

Like many other possible migrants, he disappeared, leaving his family without knowing whether he was alive or dead, caught between hope and pain.

With thousands of immigrants dying in the sea every year around the world, European and African governments are struggling to keep up with the deaths and identify the bodies, experts told AFP.

"Many bodies of migrants bathe here because of the currents of cracking," said Deputy Mayor Arona Mael Sow, referring to the notoriously dangerous coastal areas where rivers and marine waters mix.

Despite close cooperation with police and firefighters, "there are always bodies that we can not identify," Sow told AFP.

Then, families like Dieye go through the grieving process anyway, observing the proper rituals in this Muslim-majority country.

Migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Authorities believe that thousands of bodies never recover.


"We said the Koran and gave the alms five months later," added the 50-year-old woman, who lives with her four children on a small plot of land.

Dieye runs a support group for families of missing migrants with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which publishes its images online to help with the search.

Another villager, Safietou Ndiaye, said his family took seven months to accept the probable death of his brother in 2006.

But not all families manage to do it.

"Some hope that their relatives are still alive," Ndieye said.

Water damage

Earlier this month, a canoe with 150 potential Gambian immigrants ran aground in Dakar, the Atlantic port city and capital of Senegal.

Similar incidents have multiplied on the coast of Senegal and Mauritania in recent months, sometimes with tragic results.

And rescuing victims of the sea can make identification difficult because "the bodies that were taken out of the water often began to rot," a security official from Saint-Louis told AFP.

In such cases, they are buried on the beach, he said.

Worldwide, the number of migrants who have died at sea is "huge", but the rate at which they identify is still "very low", said José Baraybar, a Paris-based forensic expert who works for the International Committee of Red. Cross and was heading to a meeting in Dakar.

Then local residents came together to do their own research.

The sunken fishing boat is in front of the beach at Cape Kimberly at the mouth of the Daintree River, where suspected Vietnamese immigrants landed.

A sunken fishing boat lies off the beach at Cape Kimberly, at the mouth of the Daintree River, where suspected Vietnamese immigrants disembarked.


"We discussed the disappeared, how to identify them from their clothes, watches, faces, identity documents," Dieye told AFP, saying that her village was working with people from another village near Dakar.

Lucky charms

When two local children died at sea in April, their relatives recognized them through their clothes and lucky charms, said the mayor of Ndiebene-Gandiol.

And in the neighboring village of Pilote-Bar, bracelets and rings were found on the corpses that helped with the identification, according to Issa Wade, who runs another support group for the families of the disappeared immigrants.

But it becomes much more difficult when deaths occur hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

"The main problem is to have information about the victims before they die," Baraybar explained.

"Without knowing who they were, if they were 1.80 meters tall, what they were wearing or if they wore a ring or bracelet, without having this information from relatives, it is impossible."

The puzzle continues for forensic experts in places like Greece or Italy, when the bodies are in the Mediterranean.

In transit countries like Tunisia, "migrants hide all information about themselves to avoid being sent back to their country" if they are arrested, said Moncef Hamdoun, who heads the forensic department at the Charles-Nicolle hospital in Tunisia.

"We have a database for Tunisians," but not for people from other places, he said.

And when the bodies end up in the sea, the images are of little use, he said.