Accounting for the Missing Is an Investment in Peace

The Hague, 19 February 2019: The Mediterranean remains the scene of daily tragedies, even if the reduction in the number of migrants reaching Europe has reduced media coverage of these tragedies, the Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), Kathryne Bomberger, wrote in an opinion piece that appeared in The Times of Malta today.

She noted that, “while fewer refugees have tried to make the journey, fatalities and disappearances have continued. In the first month of 2019, the number was already well into the hundreds,” and she added that refugees and migrants sent back to embarkation ports, many of them in Libya, have routinely been subject to arbitrary detention.

Ms Bomberger highlighted “an urgent need to mobilize existing capacities among European countries such as Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Italy”. She pointed out that all four countries expressed a strong interest during an ICMP meeting held in Rome in June 2012 in enhancing cooperation to use their domestic capabilities more effectively.

“Accounting for missing migrants is not simply a humanitarian option, it is a legal requirement,” Ms Bomberger wrote. “States have a duty to investigate the fate and whereabouts of missing people (regardless of whether or not they are citizens), including the circumstances of their disappearance. If governments ignore these responsibilities, they undermine the rule of law that protects everyone – from the most secure citizen to the most vulnerable refugee.”

She concluded by expressing confidence that “through cooperation and coordination, European countries can tackle this problem quickly and effectively. This will have multiple benefits for transit and destination countries as well as countries of origin and it can bring closure to families whose dream of safety in Europe has mutated all too often into a nightmare.”

On Thursday in Valletta, Malta, at a conference organized by the President’s Foundation for the Well-being of Society and Missing Children Europe, ICMP will hold a workshop on migration policy, in cooperation with Missing People (UK). The workshop, entitled “Accounting for the missing is an investment in peace”, will hear testimony from individuals who have travelled on migration routes and who have experienced at first hand the disappearance of a loved one on their journey.”

The full text of Ms Bomberger’s article can be accessed at