Missing Migrants: Management of Dead Bodies in Sicily

As part of the Mediterranean Missing Project, this report seeks to describe and analyse how the bodies of migrants who die en route to Europe are managed, what laws are in place and what practices actors have developed to ensure that the dead are identified and families are informed. Our research focuses on the Italian island of Sicily, which has been one of the main entry points for undocumented migrants to the EU in recent years. More importantly, this specific route – primarily connecting Libya or Egypt to Sicily (Central Mediterranean Route) – is the deadliest of the 3 Mediterranean routes1 , accounting for the majority of deaths recorded in the Mediterranean since 2014. Since the shipwrecks of the 3rd and 11th of October 2013 off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, the issues of migrant fatalities and of management of the bodies have gained increasing attention among the public as well as in media and politics. This report aims to identify both deficiencies and good practices in the system currently responding to these tragedies.

The report is based on 27 semi-structured interviews with representatives from local and national authorities, civil society organisations and individuals. Some key challenges faced by the actors involved in the investigation of migrant deaths have been identified. One of these challenges is the complex nature of the problem. Migrant fatalities represent a complex humanitarian issue that requires an ongoing and coherent response, coordinated among the actors involved. They are a transnational phenomenon and as such there is a need to liaise with a range of actors in different countries. Families of the missing and dead in countries of origin and other European states or elsewhere have to be contacted in order to facilitate identification, as well as to ensure that affected families are at the centre of efforts to address the issue. Similarly, cooperation with consular or diplomatic authorities, international organisations and diaspora communities in third countries are needed to make contact with families.  

Please read the summary report here or below: