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

Between January 2014 and December 2018, nearly 18,000 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.

In this context it is crucial to better understand the situation of the tens of thousands of family members of those who have disappeared crossing the Central and Western Mediterranean routes. 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 these families through ethnographic fieldwork in sites of origin, transit and destination.  The methodology for the research will be guided by an advisory board of experts, and will build on and complement existing work on  identification and the needs of the families of missing migrants.  The research findings will be published as policy briefings that will also include recommendations for how different actors can better support  families of missing migrants.