German Newspaper Catalogs 33,293 Who Died Trying to Enter Europe

Photo
German Newspaper Catalogs 33,293 Who Died Trying to Enter Europe
Life jackets and destroyed rubber dinghies left behind by migrants in Lesbos, Greece, in 2015. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

LONDON — They were the ones who did not make it; the ones who perished seeking a new life in Europe; the ones the people smugglers consigned to frail craft doomed to founder in the Mediterranean Sea.

The German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel has sought to build a monument in print to them, cataloging the 33,293 people who, it said, died between 1993 and 2017 fleeing war, poverty and oppression in their own countries.

But, in the process, The List, as the newspaper called its 48-page tally of the lost, cast a baleful light on a tragedy that runs in parallel to the deaths: Many of them died in anonymity, particularly in recent years.

Sometimes, the industrial-scale numbers are staggering. In September 2016, for instance, 443 unidentified people — “region of origin — Africa” — died in a ship wreck off Egypt.

Then, by contrast, there was the individual pathos of brevity as in the case on Sept. 16, 2017, of a 14-year-old boy named R. Oryakhal, “struck by a car near Calais when he fell from the truck he had climbed on to try to reach Great Britain.”

Continue reading the main story

The newspaper printed 100,000 copies of The List. It was distributed with the newspaper’s edition of Nov. 9 and the rest are being given away during a series of artistic and performance presentations in Berlin. The list can also be downloaded in the form of a 48-page document.

Der Tagesspiegel said the asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants on its list had died “as a result of the restrictive policies of Fortress Europe,” both at the continent’s outer borders or after arriving in Europe itself.

Multimedia Feature

Welcome to Weimar

Germany settled the migrants with classic efficiency and astonishing speed. But on the person-to-person level where integration really happens, there were staggering cultural headwinds.

German Newspaper Catalogs 33,293 Who Died Trying to Enter Europe

OPEN Multimedia Feature

In 1995, for instance, 18 Sri Lankans, identified by name on The List, were asphyxiated in a sealed truck trailer in Hungary.

“We want to honor them,” Der Tagesspiegel said. “And at the same time we want to show that every line tells a story and that the list keeps getting longer every day.”

The list also seemed to show that, while recent attention has focused on people fleeing since the so-called Arab Spring of 2011, the lure of a new life in Europe long predates turmoil in the Middle East.

The first identified fatality on the list is Emanuel T. Tout, a 23-year-old Sudanese man, who died in a German prison on Dec. 25, 1993, of self-inflicted wounds. It was not clear why 1993 was chosen as the start date.

The final entry is on May 29, 2017, when two bodies were found and 28 people were listed as missing after they either drowned or were trampled to death when a boat sank just off the Libyan coast. The names of the deceased were not known and neither was their region of origin.

That the tally appeared in a Berlin newspaper was possibly a reflection of Germany’s central role in the refugee crisis that has engulfed Europe in recent years. In 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel threw open her country’s borders to refugees and migrants, many of them from Syria, and around one million people arrived.

While many Germans initially welcomed them, a subsequent backlash helped propel the far-right Alternative for Germany party into Parliament. In negotiations to form a new governing coalition and under pressure from her Bavarian political partners, Ms. Merkel was forced to agree to limit the number of asylum seekers to 200,000 a year.

Representatives of international organizations that work with refugees and migrants said the newspaper’s list seemed broadly consistent with their own counts of some 14,000 fatalities at sea over the past four years.

Continue reading the main story