LONDON: They were the ones who did not make it; the ones who perished seeking a new life in Europe; the ones human 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, cataloguing 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 September 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”.
The newspaper printed 100,000 copies of The List. It was distributed with the newspaper’s November 9 edition, 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,” either at the continent’s outer borders or after arriving in Europe itself.
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 December 25, 1993, of self-inflicted wounds. It was not clear why 1993 was chosen as the start date.
The final entry is 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 dead were not known, nor was their region of origin.