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Coffins at Reichstag draw attention to EU refugee crisis

Large crowds gathered around mock graves dug in front of the German parliament symbolizing the thousands of people who have died trying to reach Europe in boats. Some, however, called the event "distasteful."

With a warning that "The Dead Are Coming," German activists on Sunday staged a mass funeral in Berlin as a symbolic commemoration of the thousands of migrants who have died in the Mediterranean.

The event, organized by the protest art group Center for Political Beauty, also included a public protest against the European Union's refugee policy. The police reported that the event had attracted some 5,000 demonstrators marching past the Reichstag, carrying coffins though the heart of Berlin on their way there.

Some of the protestors dug symbolic graves on the lawn in front of the Reichstag, which houses the German parliament, and erected gravestones engraved with slogans such as "borders kill." The police had not allowed organizers to conduct its event outside the Chancellery, as had originally been planned.

Two coffins, one to symbolize the European Union, the other to symbolize Germany

The march attracted 5,000 demonstrators walking past some of Berlin's most recognizable attractions

Center of Political Beauty spokesman Philipp Ruch said the rally was intended to highlight misperceptions about the refugee crisis.

"Many speak about these incidents in the Mediterranean," he said. "They're not incidents at all or tragedies. They are a crime. These crimes happen in our names."

In addition to the symbolic funerals, the group had

previously organized actual burials

for the bodies of refugees, who died in the Mediterranean Sea in recent months. This included a Muslim

funeral for a Syrian refugee earlier this week

, who had died in the Mediterranean. The group said the memorials were always staged with the families' consent.

An estimated 800 migrants died in a single shipwreck in April, the worst disaster yet in the Mediterranean in a year in which at least 1,800 people have reportedly perished while trying to cross from Africa and the Middle East on boats. But critics have nonetheless charged the group's projects as macabre and distasteful, crossing ethical boundaries. Protests have risen in frequency in the German capital,

addressing the migrants situation

, but also other EU problems, such as the Greek debt crisis.

More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in Europe this year alone, according to the EU's border agency Frontex.

ss/sms (dpa, AFP)

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