Coronavirus: Bodies held in mosque awaiting repatriation

Coronavirus: Bodies held in mosque awaiting repatriation

Masjid Ramadan mosque

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The bodies of 18 Turkish Cypriots are being kept in a mosque in Hackney

The bodies of 18 Turkish Cypriots who are due to be repatriated to their homeland are still being held in a London mosque weeks after their deaths.

Islamic burials usually take place within 24 hours of death. But Northern Cyprus closed its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities granted approval for most of the bodies to be flown back after 1 June when borders partially re-open.

Relatives say they are “devastated” by the situation.

The 18 bodies are being kept at the Masjid Ramadan mosque in Hackney.

The mosque’s funeral director, Erkin Guney, said they had held an “unprecedented” number of funerals in the last six weeks, which had been “traumatic” for the community.

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Erkin Guney said they had held more funerals in the last six weeks than they would in a normal year

In normal times, relatives of those who died abroad can contract a funeral directors to look after the repatriation of bodies.

But due to the pandemic, anyone wanting to transfer a body has to obtain permission from the Council of Ministers, which falls under the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Ambassador Oya Tuncalı, the state’s London representative, said the council had given approval on 14 May over 11 deaths not thought to have involved coronavirus, for burial in Northern Cyprus after 1 June.

Approval is still pending for another seven individuals, all of whom died with Covid-19, Ms Tuncalı added.

The Foreign Office said repatriation of bodies was a matter for individual countries, which followed their own rules.

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Family handout

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Mustafa Enver died on 11 April

Among the bodies waiting to be repatriated is that of Mustafa Enver who died on 11 April.

His sister, Aysen Rezvan, said before he died he had asked to be sent to Cyprus to be “next to my brother or my father”.

She said her mother was desperate for her son to arrive.

“Every time when I talk to her, the first thing she asks me is, ‘where is my son?'” she said.

Inci Akin, a relative of Hasan Zort who is also among the 18 dead, said her family had been left “just waiting”.

“My auntie is devastated about that. Just devastated,” she said.

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