Gazans lose their hopes of sailing without war or poverty as bodies are returned in coffins

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By Nidal Al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters – Months ago, Talal al-Shaer wished his two sons safe travels. They set off from Gaza Strip on a treacherous route that they prayed would take them to Europe.

However, the boat carrying them across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya soon sank after they left. One son drowned and his body was found. The other one was lost.

Al-Shaer received condolences instead of telling friends about their successful migration.

“A whole generation has lost their way, is suffering, in pain, and is unable to find work. They are also in poor mental health. He said that this is what drives them to migrate.” He spoke out ahead of the funeral of his son Mohammad to Reuters. His body was returned with seven other Palestinians.

Three more, including Maher’s son, are still missing.

After decades of war with Israel, Gaza’s 2.3million inhabitants are not strangers to poverty. Economic clampdowns by Egypt, a neighbor, have led to economic hardships that have resulted in the collapse of Gaza’s economy and divisions between Palestinian factions. The World Bank reports that Gaza has a high unemployment rate of around 50%. More than half of Gaza’s population lives in poverty.

There was outrage and despair amongst the thousands who attended the funerals of the migrants.

Although there have been many dangerous migrations from the Middle East to Europe in recent years, it is particularly evident that the Palestinians are driven to risk them and are vulnerable to smugglers.

Ahmad al-Deek, a Palestinian Foreign Ministry official said that “Human-trafficking gangs behind these illegal migration trips are exploiting these youths and they charge up to $10,000 each person.” These are death trips.

He claimed that there was no total number of Palestinian migrants. On Sunday, the young men were buried in Egypt. They then flew to Libya, where they waited for months before setting sail. Deek claimed that boat smugglers would sometimes sink boats if they felt threatened, and then deceive people about their risks.

Al-Shaer recalls sending Mohammed off with the words “Go. You will live a more fulfilling life, one that is dignified.

(Written by Nidal Almughrabi, edited by Philippa Fletcher)

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