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A third of missing migrants unidentified – IOM

18 April 20240 comments

Some alarming trends in migrant deaths and disappearances have emerged over the past decade, a new report reveals.

To mark ten years of its existence, the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants Project has released a report that more than a third of deceased migrants whose country of origin could be identified come from countries in conflict or with large refugee populations.

“This highlighting the dangers faced by those attempting to flee conflict zones without safe pathways,” the report says.  

But it says information on the identities of missing migrants is highly incomplete.

Among the report’s key findings is the high number of unidentified deaths, amounting to more than two-thirds of migrants whose deaths were documented.

It says this leaves families and communities grappling with the ambiguous loss of their loved ones and highlights the need for better coordinated data collection and identification processes to provide closure to affected families. 

The report, titled ‘A decade of Documenting Migrant Deaths’, looks back at the last ten years, with more than 63,000 deaths and disappearances documented during migration over that period – and with more deaths recorded in 2023 than in any prior year.

“These figures demonstrate the urgent need for strengthened search and rescue capacities, facilitation of safe, regular migration pathways, and evidence-based action to prevent further loss of life,” the report says.

“Action should also include intensified international cooperation against unscrupulous smuggling and trafficking networks,” it says. 

“When the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project began in 2014, information was collected almost exclusively from news articles on a simple spreadsheet.

“Ten years later, data collection has improved dramatically, but the reality for migrants forced to take dangerous routes has not,” the report says. 

IOM Deputy Director General for Operations Ugochi Daniels said: “Despite the many lives lost whose identities remain unknown, we know that almost 5,500 females have perished on migration routes during the last ten years and the number of identified children is nearly 3,500”.

“The toll on vulnerable populations and their families urges us to turn the attention on the data into concrete action,” Ms Daniels said.

“For every person included in the Missing Migrants Project data, there is a family awaiting news of their loved one and affected by their loss in a multitude of ways. The impacts of migrant deaths and disappearances on their families left behind are profound and complex, and solutions are urgently needed to address families’ many unmet needs,” the report said.

The Missing Migrants Project remains the only global open-access database on migrant deaths and disappearances, compiling information from wide-ranging sources including key informants from governments, UN officials, and civil society organisations.

Read the full report: A decade of documenting migrant deaths: Data analysis and reflection on deaths during migration documented by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, 2014-2023 | Missing Migrants Project