In potters' fields: what happens to people who die in the Mediterranean?

A very big effort is always made following commercial disasters such as shipwrecks or airplane crashes, and following humanitarian disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis. A well-oiled system swings into operation, albeit that respect for the rights of the dead and their surviving family members, may not be the sole or main concern of those who are or may be responsible for the disaster, with commercial considerations normally playing a part. Nevertheless, full investigations take place. Conventions and protocols apply. There is painstaking collection of evidence and of data as a matter of routine, and there will be detailed reports, payment of compensation, and surviving family members will be enabled to identify, bury and mourn their dead.

But what if a disaster does not involve a commercial aircraft or vessel? What if the disaster concerns an unseaworthy boat, and the dead and missing are “irregular” migrants?

Viewpoint: In Potters’ Fields (pdf) by Catriona Jarvis


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