The Hague, 1 December 2023 – The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has completed the third phase of a campaign that enables Syrian families of the missing who are residing as refugees in Europe to provide genetic reference samples voluntarily, to help locate relatives missing either in Syria as a result of the conflict, or along migration routes after fleeing the conflict. The most recent campaign took place in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg during November 2023.
A total of 123 DNA samples were provided by Syrian families during the two-week campaign. In addition, family members provided data about themselves and their missing loved ones, including the location where they were last seen and the circumstances of the disappearance. To date, ICMP has collected data from more than 75,000 families of the missing who have reported 27,000 missing persons from Syria. Genetic reference samples are only collected by ICMP in areas where families of the missing can freely and voluntarily provide data through informed consent. Of the 75,000 families of the missing who have provided data to date, more than 700 people have provided genetic data.
The purpose of ICMP’s data collection campaigns is to support the creation of an impartial, centralized repository that includes all missing persons cases related to Syria, including those believed to be alive and those feared dead. This information is collected regardless of the missing or disappeared person’s sectarian or national background, gender, ethnic or religious background, their role in the conflict, political affiliation, the circumstances of disappearance, or any other factor.
In addition to collecting genetic samples, the campaign encouraged Europe-based Syrian families to report missing relatives using ICMP’s Online Inquiry Center (OIC).
“The active participation of families of the missing is essential to establish the groundwork to secure justice, truth, and reparations, and it is essential to the long-term process of building peace and stability,” ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said today.
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, more than 130,000 persons have gone missing, according to the UN. Syrians and others have gone missing in the fighting and as victims of atrocities, human rights violations, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and other crimes. Many have also disappeared along migratory routes to Europe. While most Syrian refugees have sought protection in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, about 1 million Syrian asylum seekers and refugees live in Europe.
The data collection program in Europe, supported by the German Federal Foreign Office, is one element in a long-term missing persons process for Syria.
ICMP’s broader efforts to address the issue of missing persons in the context of the Syrian conflict include facilitating dialogue among stakeholders, and supporting a comprehensive policy discussion that is reviewed in an October 2020 ICMP report. ICMP facilitates the work of the Syrian Policy Coordination Group , which is developing recommendations and a general policy framework on missing persons in Syria.
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. ICMP also supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.