Algerian artist Rashid al-Qurashi has designed a special cemetery in Zarzis, Tunisia, for the "honorable burial" of irregular migrants who lost their lives in the deep waters of the Mediterranean Sea while trying to cross to Europe.
Qureshi, engaged in plastic arts, told the story of the cemetery, named "Garden of Africa" that reserved only for irregular migrants.
He said the idea actually came from her daughter after she read an article about the difficulties experienced in the burial of irregular migrants in Zarzis in 2018.
The father and daughter have visited Zarsis to see the challenges that were mentioned in the article. When they arrived there, they saw that the article was real and there was a cemetery for irregular immigrants in the middle of a dump. He said it was devastating for them.
Today, the African Garden covers 2500 square meters and surrounded by walls, the graves are decorated with flowers and there are signs to show name, gender, and date of death.
The artist also stated that they built prayer places for immigrants from different religions in the cemetery."There are the bodies of Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist immigrants in this cemetery. For instance, some immigrants who passed away were Bangladeshi. During the construction process, I promised my God that all tombs would be the same. Now, there is no difference among the tombs, he said.
The artist underlined that they also aimed to provide the families of missing people to find their relatives."We also aim to provide an opportunity to get to know the families and relatives of the missing people. Although only 10 people have so far been identified in a large cemetery, this is a positive development. " he said.
Talking about his personal motivation on the project, Qureshi said: "My big brother was also drowned in the Mediterranean Sea many years ago. We could not find his body. My mother was still asking about him when she was lying on her deathbed. Losing a child is very difficult for a mother, especially, not having a grave makes this pain worse."The Algerian artist, whose works have been exhibited in the US, the UK, and some other countries in the World, said that the African Garden Cemetery is the first palace in the world to allow immigrants to be buried with dignity before their palaces in the afterlife."
"I have built their palaces on earth," he added.
Irregular migration to Europe continues because of economic and humanitarian crises experienced by most of the countries in the region. At least 500 people are known to have lost their lives this year trying to make the dangerous sea crossing along the Central Mediterranean route, according to UN Refugee Agency spokeswoman Carlotta Sami.