BIJELJINA, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) – In cities alongside a piece of the Drina River, which varieties a pure border between Bosnia and Serbia, there are easy, sturdy headstones marking the ultimate resting locations of dozens of migrants who’ve drowned lately. to achieve Western Europe.

Their typically decomposed our bodies had been recovered from the Bosnian facet of the river, examined by a forensic pathologist after which buried – unidentified and unclaimed – with no family members to mark the passing of their lives.

The tombstones have just lately changed the decaying picket markers, below which the stays of 41 individuals from the Center East, Africa and South Asia looking for a greater life in Europe had been initially buried. The our bodies have all been recovered from the river since 2017 and buried in native cemeteries in three border cities in japanese Bosnia.

The headstones function a visible reminder of a chronic effort by native volunteers to “protect the dignity of the anonymous victims” who met their finish within the Balkan nation, and we additionally hope to make it simpler to search out if their households come searching for them.

“Buried below these gravestones will not be solely unidentified human stays, but in addition desires and hopes of the individuals who belong, the individuals who need to be remembered,” mentioned Nihad Suljic, a 34-year-old workplace administrator of the northeastern metropolis. Tuzla.

Suljic turned an activist greater than seven years in the past when hundreds of migrants started streaming into Bosnia after earlier migration routes to wealthy European nations from the Balkans had been closed.

Migrants usually enter Bosnia from the southeast, strolling by means of dense forest and crossing the rivers that separate it from Serbia and Montenegro, after which crossing the size of the nation to achieve a northwestern pocket bordering the state member of the European Union Croatia.

The nation initially struggled to accommodate the arrival migrants, forcing hundreds of determined males, girls and kids to kind squalid makeshift camps in numerous components of its territory as they search an opportunity to advance to Western Europe. Bosnia has by no means actually recovered from its brutal civil warfare within the Nineties, which left greater than 100,000 lifeless and compelled greater than 2 million individuals, or greater than half its inhabitants, to fled their houses.

Having spent his childhood in warfare, Suljic was very sympathetic to the plight of determined vacationers sleeping on the streets of Tuzla, a lot of them fleeing armed conflicts. This prompted him to ask some to relaxation and recuperate in his dwelling earlier than persevering with his journey.

Suljic retains in contact with most of the tons of of individuals he has helped over time. In the summertime of 2022, one in all them, an Afghan who has since settled in Western Europe, got here to ask for assist finding a younger man from his hometown. The younger man was knowledgeable by the group he was touring with that he drowned within the Drina close to the city of Zvornik. His household was determined to recuperate his physique.

Bosnia and different nations alongside migration routes within the Western Balkans don’t maintain official data of migrants who die or are reported lacking on their territory. However Suljic visited the east of the nation armed with details about the date of the reported drowning of the person and an outline of his look on the time. Cops and native rescuers he spoke to in Zvornik advised he contact a forensic pathologist understanding of a hospital within the close by city of Bijeljina that examines our bodies pulled out of the Drina in that a part of the nation.

Dr. Vidak Simic examined greater than 40 corpses of migrants and refugees thus far recovered from the river. Many others have by no means been discovered. Beneath native legal guidelines, bone samples are taken from unidentified our bodies earlier than they’re buried in paupers' graves. The samples should be stored for six months in case somebody comes searching for a lacking relative and wishes a DNA pattern to match.

Nonetheless, Simic has stored the migrants' bone samples unnamed for so long as required by regulation. He advocated for a compulsory process to be set as much as run DNA exams on all of them and for the creation of a web-based database the place family from distant nations searching for their lacking family members within the Balkans can entry them.

In the meantime, Simic – who additionally notes any figuring out scars or marks on the our bodies he examines and retains clippings from their garments – is completely happy to assist anybody who comes searching for a lacking migrant or refugee. He shared the knowledge he had with Suljic and the 2 helped the Afghan household acquire a DNA pattern and determine their lacking son, repatriate his physique and return it to his hometown.

“All these persons are recorded as unidentified, however all of them as soon as had a reputation and a surname, they’d fathers, moms, brothers and sisters; that's why I do what I do, that's why I maintain their samples d bone,” mentioned Simic.

Moved by his interactions with the lacking man's household, Suljic started contacting native officers and numerous non-governmental organizations that assist migrants with the concept of ​​correctly marking the anonymous graves scattered alongside the Drina.

Municipal officers, undertakers and others embraced the concept and a Vienna-based human rights group SOS Balkanroute offered monetary assist. Then within the closing days of January, the teams of buried graves in public cemeteries of three cities alongside the Drina had been cleared. The rotting picket markers had been eliminated and changed with black marble headstones. On the Bijeljina cemetery, the place virtually half of all unidentified migrants pulled out of the Drina thus far are buried, 41 timber had been planted and a memorial to the drowned was erected.

The form of the tombstones is product of the identical stone, the memorial carries a easy message engraved in gold letters: “The migrants and refugees in whose reminiscence these timber had been planted are buried right here; we are going to always remember you and your desires that had been minimize within the river Drina.


Related Press author Radul Radovanovic contributed from Bijeljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.


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