In 2021, more than 3,000 migrants died or disappeared in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic trying to reach Europe, a figure that doubles the victims of 2020, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Before, between 2014 and 2019, about 19,000 were considered missing on the sea route to Spain, Greece and Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Only 13% of the bodies were recovered and, therefore, identified as deceased. People who leave a place and never reach their destination. Faced with such figures, the International Committee of the Red Cross has developed a project to identify – through testimonies, tools, and the count of migrants who traveled in each boat upon departure and arrival – those who have died on their journey. by sea. Thus, in September 2021, the Red Cross pilot project Missing Persons on the Migratory Route arrived in the Canary Islands, which, after a previous experience in Italy, is being extended to Ceuta and Melilla, Andalusia, Murcia, the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands.
In 2021, more than 3,000 migrants died or disappeared in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic trying to reach Europe, according to UNHCR
The idea is to start the search for missing persons on the migratory route without waiting, as was done historically, for requests to search for relatives. “We set out to change the paradigm,” explains Isabel Sebastia, a project technician in the Canary Islands. “Do not wait to receive the request, but act from the same knowledge of the shipwreck, and thus ensure that families can obtain a response, at least partial, in the short term, of the situation that a relative of theirs may have experienced on the way”. Since its implementation in the islands, the Red Cross has identified 101 missing migrants in 45 arrivals.
“The objective is to give a better response to the families of missing migrants so that they can begin their grieving process, which is very difficult, especially when there is no body and there is no certainty of death,” reflects Sebastia. , which concludes: “From the Red Cross we have always helped those who arrive. Now we want to help those who do not arrive and their families. For these, knowing that someone has taken the time to look for their relatives is very important.”
Three processes for three types of cases
The search for deceased and missing persons on the migratory route can occur in three contexts, the Red Cross details: that the boat left, but did not reach the destination coast, that the boat arrives with deceased people, or that the boat has deceased people, but their bodies have disappeared at sea.
In the first of the cases, when a small boat or canoe that left a point on a certain date, but has not reached the coast, is identified, the information on calls and search requests from relatives is compiled to prepare a list of passengers and an account of what happened. In the small boats or canoes that arrive on the coast with missing persons, in addition, the testimonies of the survivors themselves are added to this investigation, as well as the news or publications on social networks in this regard.
If the ship arrives with dead people, it is a question of identifying the bodies (together with the Institute of Legal Medicine and the courts), and if this is not possible, the identity of the migrant is also contrasted with the survivors, and the comparison of data in the search requests. If a family member wants to identify the body, the Red Cross provides physical and emotional support in the process.
In all cases, the registration of possible names (and their comparison in databases with different forms of writing or partial similarities), as well as the photographs in which they could appear, are an added value to the investigation.
Regarding the interviews with survivors, there is no closed questionnaire model, since it is preferable to adapt to the feelings and reactions of each person in the face of these tragic events. An attempt is made to reconstruct the entire chronology of the trip and what happened, and to gather as many details about the disappeared persons as possible, including whether they knew any relatives.
Corroborating the information with digital tools and third-party information, the data on departures and arrivals is analyzed to calculate the probability of survival of those involved. With this, the partial answer of what happened is elaborated.
Every year, thousands of immigrants disappear on their way to Europe. Their families, scattered across different continents, remain without news and in deep anguish. The reasons for the loss of contact are diverse: loss or confiscation of your phone, arrest or even death. through the campaign #NoTraceOfYou (No trace of you), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) tries to raise awareness of this humanitarian problem, which remains largely overlooked.
The ICRC’s Restoring Family Links service works to protect and restore family ties, search for and identify missing persons, protect the dignity of the deceased and ensure that the needs of relatives of the deceased are met. missing persons. On the Family Links website there is an online search section geared towards helping separated people get in touch. Then, depending on the site where contact has been lost, one way or another proceeds. For example, it is especially complicated if the disappeared person has left a country with a dictatorial regime or a war zone, because they could be persecuted and it would be necessary to be especially careful in their search process, they clarify from the Red Cross.
For this reason, information is sometimes difficult to obtain, and it is very limited. It may even happen that a person, for many reasons, does not want to be found and it is not possible to reveal information that he does not expressly authorize, which makes this entire search process even more difficult.
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Source: EL PAIS