Via the Athens News
IT IS a sign of the times: a four-digit number scrawled on a marble offcut leaning against a wooden stake. In front of it lies a mixture of earth and rubble, the odd cigarette butt and an upturned censer – its incense long since burned out and, most likely, belonging to the neighbouring, ornately-decorated grave.
The body lying in burial plot 1139 of Athens’ Third Cemetery, in Nikaia, is most likely that of an illegal migrant who came to this country for a better life. Buried within the last two months, he (or she, for the undertaker who pointed to a number of unnamed graves could not recall which) will likely never be identified.
The story is little different for most of the 150-odd so-called unclaimed or unidentified bodies buried across Greece each year.
The number, according to Filippos Koutsafis, head of the Coroner’s office in Athens, has grown steadily over the past few years as the country’s legal and illegal migrant community has swelled.
Within the last weeks alone, the bodies of seven men, who were apparently trying to enter the country illegally, were found drowned near the northeastern port of Alexandroupolis. Two were pulled from the sea in fishermen’s nets and four were found washed up in the Evros Delta. Two of the bodies held identification showing they were Iraqi nationals.