Funeral workers protest as Rome red tape causes bodies to pile up

Rome (AFP) –


Funeral home operators staged a protest in Rome on Friday over a desperate situation they say has left almost two thousand coffins in the Italian capital waiting weeks or even months to be cremated.

While coronavirus has not helped the situation, the increase in deaths and limited access to public services brought on by the pandemic has only exposed a long-standing problem caused by Italy's old nemesis -- bureaucracy.

"We appeal to the mayor of Rome to end the current procedures needed to authorise a cremation," Giovanni Caccioli, national secretary of the Italian Federation of Funeral Homes, told AFP at the protest.

Standing alongside their hearses, the funeral workers laid wreaths around the Roman Temple of Hercules Victor, near Mayor Virginia Raggi's office, with notices reading: "Sorry, they will not let us bury your loved ones."

According to Caccioli, Rome registers around 15-18,000 requests for cremations every year, for which families must go through a "tortuous" bureaucratic journey involving the local cemetery, the municipal agency Ama and the registrar office.

"It's been three months that I've been waiting for my husband's cremation, and still nothing has been done," said Lorella Pesaresi, whose husband died in January after testing positive for coronavirus while undergoing chemotherapy.

"It's not fair -- coronavirus and now this," she told AFP.

He noted other cities did it in one or two days, adding: "We can't go on like this."

Maurizio Tersini, who runs Le Sphink funeral home, says around 1,800 coffins are currently waiting to be incinerated in Rome.

"The main problem is a bureaucratic one," the 59-year-old told AFP, adding: "It is a great suffering for the families."