“Missing Migrants and Deaths at the EU’s Mediterranean Border: Humanitarian Needs and State Obligations” was a year-long research project running until October 2016, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of the United Kingdom. Resulting from collaboration between the University of York, City University London, and the International Organization for Migration, the project was one of the first efforts to systematically collect data and comparatively explore current responses to migrant bodies in the Mediterranean, and the impacts of a missing person on families left behind. In 2015, over 3,770 refugees and migrants are known to have died at sea while trying to reach Europe, and the death toll has continued to mount since. The majority of these people are not identified, and in many cases bodies are never found. In each case, a family is left in a state of ambiguous loss, unable to fully grieve for their loved one. Despite the magnitude of unidentified deaths and the suffering of families, states have done little to address this humanitarian imperative. This project aimed to shed light on the policy vacuum at EU and national levels, through investigating the policies and practices in Italy and Greece regarding the investigation, identification, burial and repatriation of migrant bodies. Research with families in Turkey and Tunisia sought to better understand the impacts of missing persons on families, both psychologically as well as economically and socially. Research findings have been published and can be found here.

Full Project Summary