Regional classifications

How does IOM’s Missing Migrants Project categorize locational data?

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. These regions are included for academic and statistical purposes. Generally, when migrant deaths and disappearances occur at sea, 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 into a set of geographical regions defined by current migration patterns and contemporary common language usage. These regions can be seen on the map, below, and differ from the UN geoscheme in several ways.  Firstly, several regions have modified names - most notably, states in the UN-designated region of ‘Western Asia’ are categorized here under ‘Middle East’. Secondly, some regions are combined because they have similar patterns of migration; for example, Europe is defined as one region instead of four. Additionally, the US-Mexico border is counted as a distinct region, as it has a particular migration context relating to instances of migrant deaths and disappearances. The Mediterranean is also included as a geographic region on this list for the same reason.  The regional break-down for Africa also deviates from the UN geoscheme, again in the interest of grouping areas with strongly related migration trends. For instance, the Horn of Africa is counted as its own region, as migration in Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea have migration flows distinct from the UN-designated regions of Northern and Eastern Africa. Similarly, North Africa includes all deaths in the Sahara Desert, as well as those between north-western Africa and the Canary Islands. Eastern African countries not in the Horn, as well as those in the Western, Middle and Southern African regions are combined into ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’ as comparatively few deaths are recorded in this area.



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 an estimate. This accuracy of the coordinates is linked to the variety of sources used in the data - these range, for example, from official coroner autopsies on the United States‒Mexico border to 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. 


Regions in focus



Missing Migrants Project by International Organization for Migration (IOM) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. This means that Missing Migrants Project website content is free to share and adapt, as long as the appropriate attribution is given. Missing Migrants Project is made possible by funding by UK Aid from the Government of the United Kingdom; however, the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the Government of the United Kingdom’s official policies.