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One of the largest Turkish burial grounds in the UK faces closure

26th Jan 2024
One of the largest Turkish burial grounds in the UK faces closure

Elham Asaad Buaras

One of the largest Turkish burial grounds in the UK is facing closure after owners repeatedly failed to make necessary improvements to ensure the safety of burials.

On January 11, the government announced its plan to apply to the Privy Council for an order stopping burials at the Tottenham Park Cemetery in Enfield, which is partly leased to the Tottenham Park Islamic Cemetery Association (TPICA). This would mean no new burials would be permitted in the North London cemetery, except where plots have previously been reserved.

At the end of 2017, community members claimed to have discovered bone fragments at the cemetery following a voluntary cleaning day after complaints about the cemetery’s maintenance went unaddressed.

In 2018, members of the British Turkish community made multiple complaints to the local authority about health and safety concerns at the privately owned cemetery.

Tottenham Park Charitable Trust, a 25-year-old organisation formed to represent friends and family of those buried at the grounds, held a public meeting on February 15, 2018, to discuss their campaign to improve standards at the cemetery.

An official complaint about the site was first raised by the local council, Baroness Hussein-Ece, and the local MPs, prompting the two inspections.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced the cemetery’s intended closure in a statement, saying, “The move follows two government-ordered inspections that found remains were being unlawfully disturbed during the burial process. Recommendations that no new plots should be excavated or sold, record-keeping should be improved, and a survey undertaken to identify existing burials have not been met.”

Inspections over the past four years have found that the cemetery is full, but despite this, it has been reported that there have been more than 250 new burials since 2019, the council said.

The local authority attempted to buy the site last year and bring it into public ownership.
Justice Minister Mike Freer said, “The people buried in this cemetery were laid to rest, and the repeated disturbance of their remains is not only illegal but a breach of trust. I believe it is necessary to seek this closure to ensure that Tottenham Park Cemetery can safely serve its community in the future.”

The Ministry of Justice also reassured communities that the ban on future burials would not affect the site’s availability for the public to visit their loved ones’ graves and that it will continue to work with the cemetery’s owners and Enfield Council to ensure the reserved graves are properly managed.

Photo: Broken gravestone, a common sight at Tottenham Park Cemetery, and Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece speaks at protest about state of Tottenham Park Cemetery, Nov. 2018.
(Credit: Halil Yetkinlioglu)

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