Less than a third of over 15,000 migrants that have died in the Mediterranean sea when traveling between North Africa and Italy have been identified since 2014, according to a June 14 press release from the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC).
Only about 22 percent of the recovered bodies were identified between 1990 and 2013.
Poor outreach efforts by Italian authorities as well as a lack of an entity to offer support and feedback to families submitting reports of missing persons are to blame for the low identification rates, according to the press release. Furthermore, many identifications rely solely on visual confirmation as opposed to forensic methods, which can lead to incorrect conclusions.
We’ve recorded more than 15,000 #MissingMigrants in the Central #Mediterranean since 2014. The remains of fewer than 5,000 of those who lost their lives in the dangerous sea crossing – less than 1 in 3 – were recovered. Read more in our new briefing: https://t.co/uI19bg7On2 pic.twitter.com/T9lEQ0C6sU
— Missing Migrants Project (@MissingMigrants) June 14, 2019
Even with forensic analysis, net identification rates are low. In the case of one shipwreck in October of 2013, in which over 300 people died, only 8.5 percent of the bodies were identified despite a robust forensics operation by the Italian Special Commissioner for Missing Persons. Identification rates are significantly higher when families of the deceased provide “ante-mortem data points” such as dental and other medical records. About 58 percent of these cases were successfully identified.
“For three high-profile shipwrecks, the Italian Special Commissioner for Missing Persons has mobilized a high-quality forensic operation,” the press release said. “Even in these limited cases, where comprehensive forensic data have been collected from migrant bodies, few identifications have been made.”
While the many thousands of unidentified migrant deaths are tragic, so too is the struggle of families who live on without ever knowing what happened to their loved ones.
“Thousands of families of missing migrants remain in limbo,” said Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre. “They face the disappearance of a loved one that may never be acknowledged or confirmed.”