Policy Briefing: Addressing Migrant Bodies on Europe’s Southern Frontier. An agenda for research and practice
In recent years thousands of undocumented migrants have died in shipwrecks at the coasts of Greece, Spain and Italy in their effort to enter the EU. This brief draws on field research on the Greek island of Lesbos, one of the key entry points of migrants to the EU that 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. Whilst the note is based on research findings from fieldwork in the Greek island of Lesbos, recommendations are likely to also be of relevance in Spain and Italy.