Emilio Nuzzolese, leads the Human Identification Laboratory at the Medico-legal Institute of the University of Turin, Italy
Emilio Nuzzolese, leads the Human Identification Laboratory at the Medico-legal Institute of the University of Turin, Italy

Turin - For Emilio Nuzzolese, the thousands of migrants who die trying to reach Europe deserve the same efforts of any Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) operations. "The dead have the right to be identified and families to know the faith of their beloved ones. Restoring a name and an identity to unidentified human remains is a human rights issue" Nuzzolese, Italian forensic odontologist, said in an international forensic odontology congress in Lucknow (India) on the 2nd of August 2019, but also in 2013 during the Interpol DVI meeting in Lyon, and several other congresses.

Nuzzolese is urging the European Union to update the UE Recommendation 3(99) on medico-legal autopsies, which was licensed in 1999 and does not consider the evolution of forensic odontology. Since 2012, he is waging a lonely fight to promote the importance of performing a complete dental autopsy and not just a dental examination to all unidentified human remains drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean sea to reach Europe.

Dentistry is not included in the general health evaluation of illegal migrants entering Europe, although, in his experience, dental care often seems to be requested by migrants, depending on their length of stay at hosting centres. To date, due to logistical challenges and the several actors involved, the standards applied in the forensic examination and post mortem collection of victims of migration is not sufficient to satisfy basic quality criteria for the management of the dead. In fact, visual identification is the most common method used to identify dead migrants, although this method has huge limitations and requires the presence of at least one family member of the dead migrant, who, in most cases, is not available. As a result, the “Missing Migrants Project” estimates that there have been 17,124 migrants’ deaths and disappearances since 2014.

“We need governments to acknowledge that all human identification process should follow DVI standards, independently from the type and cause of the accident, as discrimination cannot be conceivable, and a shipwreck must be considered equivalent to a mass disaster. Finally, dentistry and dental radiology should be included in the general health evaluation of all illegal migrants, following the dental fitness scores model suggested for military personnel by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) agreement 2465 (STANAG2465). Migrant dental records could help identify those attempting to enter using an alias or with false, incomplete, or altered fingerprints.”, highlight Emilio Nuzzolese, also chairman of an international non-profit organization called Forensic Odontology For Human Rights, whose main goal is promoting humanitarian forensic odontology and best practice in human identification and age estimation.

As an example, on 3 October 2013, the boat carrying migrants from Libya to Italy sank with 359 confirmed deaths and Italy's government has paid €9,5 million to recover the sunken ship and transport human remains. Not a lack of resources, but the need for a structured solution aiming to the creation a national and international network of DVI experts, for the purpose of strengthening coordination between all EU Member State's DVI teams, also evaluating the constitution of "UDVI teams", Unidentified & Disaster Victims Identification.