Intergovernmental Roundtable: Countries in the Middle East & Europe Must Cooperate to Address the Issue of Missing Syrians

The Hague, 22 June 2022– The Third Intergovernmental Roundtable on Syria convened by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) was held today under the title “Accounting for the Missing Is an Investment in Peace”. The roundtable, convened virtually, examined effective means of cooperation among European and Middle Eastern countries that are hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees to address the issue of people who have gone missing in Syria or on migratory routes or in destination countries.

“At previous roundtables we recognized that this is a shared challenge that requires a shared solution,” ICMP Commissioner Dirk Brengelmann said in his opening remarks. “It cannot be adequately addressed by individual countries or by groups of countries in the Middle East or in Europe – it can only be addressed effectively if the countries of origin, transit and destination cooperate.”

ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger stressed that states have an obligation to investigate the fate and whereabouts of missing persons, including the circumstances of their disappearance. “Finding missing persons in the context of the Syrian conflict will require the engagement of multiple states, including those that are hosting Syrian refugees,” she said. “A shared database, for example, can help find Syrians missing in Syria, but also Syrians who went missing along migratory routes, including families separated from one another, as well as those who disappeared as a consequence of human trafficking, or other criminal acts.”

One important outcome of the meeting was a proposal from one of the representatives to launch a regional expert discussion on how governments in the MENA region can institute processes among them to advance regional cooperation on the issue of the missing.

ICMP is working with families of the missing and governments to lay the foundations for an effective system to find missing Syrians. It has collected data from more than 60,000 families of the missing who have reported almost 23,000 missing persons cases related to the Syrian context. The repository is growing with families adding information. More than 3,000 Syrian families have reported missing relatives using ICMP’s Online Inquiry Center (OIC) and almost 60 potential locations of missing persons have been reported through the OIC.

Today’s roundtable, part of ICMP’s broader effort to address the issue of missing persons in the context of the Syrian conflict, follows a policy process discussion that is reviewed in an October 2020 ICMP report. ICMP also facilitates the work of the Syrian Policy Cooperation Group, which is developing recommendations and a general policy framework on missing persons in Syria.

The roundtable was supported by the European Union, a major supporter of ICMP’s Syria/MENA Program.


About ICMP

ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization that seeks to ensure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, 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.

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