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Greece's Grieving Muslims Want More Places to Bury Their Dead

Αssociated Press

Muslims who live in Greece pray inside the first state-funded mosque in Athens on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS -- With Greece's first official mosque recently opening after years of delays, Muslims living in the country now said they want another cemetery, the one available for their deceased being in Thrace in the north.

That came after the death of a 27-year-old Afghan asylum seeker at the Ritsona migrant camp on Evia led to protests about not enough places to bury the dead, leading to bodies being left in mortuaries, said Kathimerini.

The Greek Forum for Migrants said it was collecting donations to have the body of the mother of three, said to have died from natural causes after tests showed she had COVID-19, taken to Thrace or back to her native Afghanistan for burial, urging government help.

In 2017, Turkey's state run Anadolu News Agency reported the problem was frustrating Greece's Muslims, the population swelled by more than 100,000 refugees and migrants in detention centers and camps.

"I never had a chance to go to my baby's funeral. It was buried miles away," Muhammed Leggar, a 33-year-old Palestinian refugee who fled Aleppo, Syria, told the news agency after his unborn child died in Athens and was taken to the northern burial site. 

Greek authorities have been rejecting Muslims' request to build a cemetery for their own Athens, home to scores of thousands of Muslims who now have an official place to pray but not to lay their dead to rest.

The migrants end up having to send their loved ones’ remains to cities in Greece’s northeast, which have a higher Muslim population as well as the Muslim cemetery, with the help of local communities or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) the report also said.