Since 2014, over 20,000 migrant deaths and disappearances have been recorded in the Mediterranean Sea by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project. The majority have not been recovered from the sea, and even fewer have been identified. For every one of these people, there is a family awaiting news of their loved one and affected by their loss in a multitude of ways.
There are likely tens of thousands of families who have loved ones who disappeared along the Central and Western Mediterranean routes towards Europe alone. Thanks to funding from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, in 2019-2020 IOM's GMDAC carried out a research project on the experiences of families with missing family members in the context of migration across the Central and Western Mediterranean in Spain, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom.
LIVING WITHOUT THEM:
STORIES OF FAMILIES LEFT BEHIND
“I am really worried about my daughter. I can’t stop thinking about her. I don’t know what I am going to do. My hopes and dreams left with her. Sometimes I talk to myself just like a madwoman. I have long waited to see her face. But my wishes remain a daydream. Every day I pray, hoping to get her back alive. Whenever someone knocks at my door, I run, hoping that will be my daughter who has come back. I know she is not dead because I see her in my dreams. My heart always tells me she is alive.”
– Mother of a missing migrant from Ethiopia
ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A FAMILY MEMBER?
Every year, hundreds of people die or go missing on migration routes worldwide. For every one of these people, there is a family awaiting news of their loved one and affected by their loss in a multitude of ways.
If you know someone who has gone missing while migrating, please click here for information about civil society and non-governmental groups that may be helpful in your search.
Although International Organization for Migration (and its Missing Migrants Project) does not directly conduct tracing or searches for missing migrants, we can answer your questions and refer you to organizations that provide this support. You can send us an email to MissingMigrants@iom.int
MEDITERRANEAN MISSING PROJECT
"Missing Migrants and Deaths at the EU’s Mediterranean Border: Humanitarian Needs and State Obligations” was a year-long research project running until October 2016, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of the United Kingdom. Resulting from collaboration between the University of York, City University London, and the International Organization for Migration, the project was one of the first efforts to systematically collect data and comparatively explore current responses to migrant bodies in the Mediterranean, and the impacts of a missing person on families left behind. This project involved field work in Italy, Greece Turkey and Tunisia and sought to better understand the impacts of missing persons on families, both psychologically as well as economically and socially.
Previous research with families whose relatives have gone missing in the contexts of conflict situations, environmental disasters and enforced disappearance provides an understanding of the emotional, psychological and social impacts of having a missing relative. However, so far there is little research specifically on the needs of families who are missing someone in the context of international migration – the main studies are listed below. Please note that this list is not exhaustive and that wider research, on families searching for their loved ones in different contexts as well as on aspects of irregularized migration, also provide important insight into the experiences of families and fellow migrants searching for a missing person. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to suggest additions or updates to the list below.