More than 23,000 migrant deaths and disappearances have been recorded globally since 2014, but the real figure is likely to be significantly higher.
A new report co-edited by Bristol academic Ann Singleton has highlighted this international humanitarian issue and calls for policy improvement that could help prevent further loss of life in the future and offer families some sense of closure.
“Few bodies of missing migrants are formally identified, leaving families in limbo, without perhaps ever knowing whether a loved one is alive or dead,” explained Singleton.
The University of Bristol senior research fellow worked on the report, Fatal Journeys Volume three, Improving Date on Missing Migrants, which was released on Monday and particularly focuses on the need to improve knowledge of the women and children who are going missing in the migration process.
Singleton said: “Improving data on missing migrants is not just a question of collecting more statistics.
“Better analysis, responsible media reporting and well-grounded research is needed to improve public understanding.
“For the families left behind it could make a real difference if they are able to find more information on their missing relatives. Better data on migrant fatalities can also help to inform policies aimed at reducing migrant deaths.
“Media reports are important sources of information on the numbers of migrant deaths. The coverage also plays a major role in the framing of policy discourses. Media and journalists’ groups can help people better understand the complex migration story by applying ethical principles, rigour in reporting data and incidents, avoiding crude stereotypes and developing good newsroom practice.
“Better reporting on missing migrants requires care not to dehumanise people, which means following-up of stories, inclusion of the voices of migrants and deeper reflection on the roles of states and the needs of families. “
She explained that the numbers recorded missing or dead by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) do not tell the full story as many deaths are unrecorded.
The report outlines ways in which the issue can be addressed, including better and more comprehensive data collection, sharing of information and forensics to improve identification and more effective analysis, interpretation and sharing of information.
It was prepared by the IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in Berlin with input from the University of Bristol.
Main image of refugees in 2016. Credit: Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe
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