No Names,
Just Numbers

- people arrive, people die and others try to identify -

In the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri uses the word Limbo to describe the first circle of hell, a prison for those who are neither allowed into heaven nor into the underworld.

Walking through Sicily’s cities, there is little to remind you of the catastrophe that is taking place off the island’s shores.

It is not only the living that the Italian authorities have had to manage. Some 14,000 refugees and migrants have died trying to reach Europe by sea since 2014 — more than 2,000 of them in this year alone.

The causes of death are mostly the same.
The identities: mostly unknown.
Migrant boats don’t have passenger lists.

The migrants arrival has changed the world of the dead as much as the world of the living.

After the ceremony, the dead are buried in cemeteries in the region, depending on where there was space.
More than 100 refugees are buried in Catanias cemetery. Only one grave has a name on it. The others are numbered.

Refugee boats have no passenger lists. In addition, many of the dead come from countries where you can not simply call relatives. In 2015, forensics wanted to identify the deaths of a shipwreck in front of Lampedusa in 2013. More than 350 people died at the time.

For the identification, information obtained after the death must be compared with samples from the life of the dead. If people die in the crash of a scheduled aircraft, relatives can be found via passenger lists. But is not that easy for shipwrecks in the Mediterranean. Most of them who die during the crossing can not be identified. They become numbers in a statistics that draws their horror from the masses, not the fates.

In Sicily the disaster is close, but not everything is lost. In the middle of the resulting chaos of the Mediterranean Harbors, there is still a bit of hope. For those that are dedicating their life to identify the corps of refugees, it is a personal matter to give these people a bit of dignity back.

*This story was an assigment for the GO Magazine, the texts are excerpts from the publication and were written by Johannes Laubmeier.

All rights reserved. All Images © Carlos Bafile