Tunisia inaugurates new cemetery for drowned migrants

[Image: Courtesy]
TUNISIA– The southern Tunisian coastal town of Zarzis has inaugurated its second migrant cemetery called ‘Le Jardin d’Afrique’ to honor the many people who lost their lives while attempting to cross Mediterranean ocean to Europe. 

The cemetery was inaugurated on June 9, in the presence of UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay among other delegates. At the time of inauguration, the cemetery had become a resting place for migrants who already occupied half of its burial places (200). 

Le Jardin d’Afrique’s launch comes five years after it was designed and built by the Algerian artist Rachid Koraichi.

Also known as the ’Garden of Africa’ , the cemetery is non-denominational, aimed to prove that art can really deal with the most important subjects, encourage compassion and empathy and make a difference in the face of great suffering.

Koraichi belongs to the Tijaniyyah order of Sufism, a spiritual form of Islam, which originated in North Africa before spreading to other parts of the continent.

He decided to build the ’Garden of Africa’ in Zarzis after noticing that local authorities in the fishing port were struggling to bury dozens of bodies of migrants that had washed up on its shores.

According to Koraichi,74, he constructed the cemetery to help the migrants who have died while attempting to cross the mediterenean go to heaven after the “hell they went through”.

He opines that migrants who lost their lives  were “condemned by the Sea” even after facing “the Sahara, bandits, terrorists and even torture.

Algerian artist Rachid Koraichi said he set up the Jardin d’Afrique cemetery to give “a first taste of paradise” to migrants who died trying to reach Europe [FATHI NASRI AFP]
Tunisia and neighbouring Libya are key departure points for migrants, many from sub-Saharan African, who attempt the dangerous crossing from the North African coast to Europe, particularly Italy.

In March, IOM and UHHCR said that “some 190 people have died while crossing the Central Mediterranean in 2021 … This is an average of almost three deaths per day.”

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR issued a report in early May indicating that at least 500 people had died trying to cross the Central Mediterranean this year, more than triple the 150 in the same period of 2020.

They also said that roughly 5,700 migrants had arrived in Italy from North Africa in the same time period.

“The Central Mediterranean continues to claim lives as thousands of people embark on these perilous journeys, whether fleeing extreme poverty, conflict, or in search of a better life,” said IOM’s Chief of Mission in Tunisia, Azzouz Samri. 

“We continue to call for proactive search and rescue in the most dangerous sea crossing in the world, and the establishment of clear and safe disembarkation for people rescued at sea.”