19 November 2021: Representatives of Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Malta participated today in the third meeting of the Joint Process, facilitated by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) at the Ministry of Migration and Asylum of Greece in Athens, to discuss the way forward in the effort to account for missing migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean region. Since the beginning of 2014, more than 23,000 people have died or gone missing attempting to reach Europe.
At a meeting convened by ICMP in Rome in June 2018, the same four European Mediterranean countries launched a Joint Process to expand cooperation and enhance domestic capabilities to account for missing migrants and refugees. The four countries agreed to work with ICMP to assess their investigatory capacities, to propose strategies to redress possible shortcomings, and to enhance cooperation.
Speaking at today’s meeting, Greece’s Minister for Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, said the Joint Process should be extended to more Mediterranean states “since it offers a real added value and complements our national efforts for the identification of missing persons.” He said that as long as smugglers take advantage of desperate people, the problem of missing migrants in the Mediterranean will remain. “Hence the necessity for our countries to engage in a joint effort to assist the families of missing people. This is a work that Greece has made a priority and for this reason the initiative of the Joint Process has the full support of the Greek government and the Greek authorities.”
“Europe has the highest number of dead and missing migrants in the world: the numbers are on the rise and this challenge will most likely continue into the foreseeable future,” said the Chair of ICMP, Ambassador Thomas Miller, who moderated the discussion. “Building sustainable, cost effective measures, as well as cooperation among the counties on the frontline, is essential to upholding human dignity and the rule of law,” he added.
In his closing remarks, ICMP Commissioner Ambassador Dirk Brengelmann noted that “The premise of the Joint Process is to ensure the cooperation of governments to uphold domestic and international law to investigate the disappearance of citizens and non-citizens,” and he added that “The countries engaged in the Joint Process have continued to make progress since they first met in 2018.”
After conducting a comprehensive assessment, ICMP presented a set of Proposals for Action at the second meeting of the Joint Process, held in June 2019 at ICMP Headquarters in The Hague. At that meeting, Cyprus, Greece, and Malta welcomed “the initiative to further explore cooperation, including identifying ‘focal points’ in each country.” In 2020 and 2021, focal points were appointed in the Joint Process countries, representing a significant step forward in operational cooperation.
At today’s meeting, the Joint Process Statement was endorsed by Cyprus, Greece and Malta. The participating countries agreed on the need for a secure way of data collection and exchange that can improve efforts to find missing migrants and reunite families; invited the Joint Process Secretariat together with the Focal Points to work towards the elaboration of a proposal for such a solution; agreed to recommend that current Focal Points meet periodically to develop a strategic work-plan for the Joint Process, for consideration at the next meeting; and agreed to enhance the work of the Joint Process by inviting other countries to participate.
In addition to representatives of Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta, today’s meeting was attended by representatives of “Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the European Commission (DG HOME)” in an observer capacity.
ICMP’s Missing Migrants and Refugees Program is generously supported by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland and the German Federal Foreign Office.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.
 *Italy shares the views of the Joint Process statement but requires additional time for internal consultations to further consider the specifics of this document.