Addressing Migrant Bodies on Europe’s Southern Frontier: An agenda for research and practice

An agenda for research and practice

Please find attached a briefing note that discusses the issue of the management of the bodies of migrants found at the EU’s southern border, based on recent research in Lesbos, Greece. In recent years thousands of undocumented migrants have died in shipwrecks on the coasts of Greece, Spain and Italy in their effort to enter the EU. Lesbos is one of the key entry points of migrants to the EU and has seen repeated incidents of deadly shipwrecks. The note underlines the gaps and flaws in the policies pursued by local, national and EU authorities. Research shows that although several local agencies engage with the problem, none assumes responsibility. It reveals the absence of any provision for identification of victims or to inform families of deaths, and limited efforts to dignify the bodies with a decent burial. The needs of families of dead migrants are excluded from the official management of the issue.

Building on international experience in the management of the problem of missing persons in post-conflict settings, the brief offers concrete policy recommendations with regards to both ensuring that bodies are buried with dignity, and developing effective practices to enable identification of bodies. Ultimately, we seek to aid policymakers to find routes to informing families of the fate of missing migrants and in so doing ensure that dead migrants are valued in a way that drives policy to prevent future deaths.

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