How does IOM’s Missing Migrants Project categorize locations?

Incidents involving migrant deaths and disappearances are categorized in two ways based on the physical location in which they reportedly occurred. Both of these variables can be viewed by downloading the Missing Migrants Project database from this page. First, they are categorized by the geographical sub-regions of the United Nations Statistics Division’s geoscheme. The composition of these regions is available on the United Nations website here. In the Missing Migrants Project database, this is the “UNSD Geographical Grouping”. These regions are included for academic and statistical purposes. Generally, when deaths and disappearances occur over water, they are included in the region nearest to the body of water in which they occurred. For example, deaths in the Bay of Bengal are categorized under South-Eastern Asia. Some bodies of water, such as the Mediterranean Sea, border several UN sub-regions, and deaths in these areas are consequently left uncategorized.

Missing Migrants Project also categorizes incidents by the “Region of incident” based on current migration patterns and contemporary common language usage. These regions differ from the UN geoscheme in a few ways. Firstly, some regions are combined because they have similar patterns of migration; for example, “Europe” is defined as one region instead of four (as it is in the UN-designated regions), as is Oceania. Additionally, the Mediterranean is counted as a distinct region, as it has a particular migration context relating to instances of migrant deaths and disappearances.

Please note that these regional categorizations may change as new patterns of migration emerge, and as data collection for the Missing Migrants Project improves.


How accurate are the geolocation coordinates included in the data?

Though Missing Migrants Project includes a variable for the longitude and latitude of each incident involving a migrant fatality, in most cases these coordinates are only estimates. The accuracy of the coordinates is linked to the variety of sources used in the data - these range, for example, from precise coordinates provided by official coroner autopsies on the United States‒Mexico border to approximate locations transliterated from unverifiable testimonies from migrants who have witnessed the deaths of their peers in North Africa. While official reports may contain accurate coordinates, these may not be included due to political sensitivities, especially in incidents involving rescue at sea.