Assessing the needs of families searching for relatives lost in the Central and Western Mediterranean

Since 2014, over 20,000 migrant deaths and disappearances have been recorded in the Mediterranean Sea by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project. More than 90 per cent of these people died in the Central and Western Mediterranean en route to Europe. The majority have not been recovered from the sea, and even fewer have been identified. Their families may not know what has happened to them.

In this context it is crucial to better understand the situation of the tens of thousands of family members who have loved ones who disappeared along the Central and Western Mediterranean routes towards Europe. Previous work with families whose relatives have gone missing in situations of conflict and disaster has led to an understanding of the emotional, psychological, economic and social impacts of having a missing relative, but little has been done to understand the specific needs of the families of missing migrants.

Thanks to funding from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, IOM's GMDAC seeks to shed light on the needs of families in such a situation through ethnographic fieldwork in Spain, Tunisia, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom.  The methodology for the research is guided by an advisory board of experts, and is built on complementary existing work on identification and the needs of the families of missing migrants. In summer/fall 2020, the research findings will be published as policy briefings that include recommendations for how different actors can better support families of missing migrants in each country context and more generally.