Syrian families residing in Europe provide data to support finding missing relatives from the war

The Hague, 2 December 2022 – The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has completed the second phase of a campaign to collect DNA reference samples from Syrian families living in Europe. The most recent campaign took place in Germany and the Netherlands between October and November 2022.

ICMP has collected data and received reports from more than 68,000 families representing more than 25,000 missing persons.  This data has been obtained voluntarily through reports to ICMP’s Online Inquiry Center (OIC) or through efforts to collect data directly from families of the missing with support from Syrian civil society organizations that work with ICMP.

The data collected includes information on where and when missing persons were last seen, and information about the circumstances of disappearance, including possible perpetrators. ICMP also collects genetic reference samples from families of the missing.  To date, ICMP has collected samples from 506 families of the missing living in Europe and in Iraq, who have reported 345 missing persons.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, more than 130,000 persons have gone missing, according to Syrian organizations and international institutions. 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, around one million Syrian asylum seekers and refugees live in Europe.

“The direct engagement of families of the missing in providing data to find their missing loved ones and investigate their disappearance is critical in laying the foundations for finding missing persons from the Syrian war and securing basic human rights,” said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger.

“This data can be used to reunite families who have been separated, to confirm the identity of persons in detention, and to identify persons who are missing and presumed dead. We hope this data will be used along with data collected inside Syria to locate and identify missing persons. States are responsible for finding missing persons and finding such a high number of missing persons is not possible without the cooperation of the current regime.

Ms Bomberger said the data provided to ICMP by families of the missing “should form part of a shared data system that includes data collected by many other organizations, encompassing all missing persons cases related to Syria.” She added that this shared data system “should include data related to all missing and disappeared persons regardless of their sectarian, national, ethnic or religious background, their gender, their role in the conflict, their political affiliation, or the circumstances of their disappearance, and it should apply to people who are alive, including people believed to be in detention, as well as those who are feared dead.”

“Using secure database technology, it is possible to maintain a system that accounts for the missing from Syria over the long term,” she said.

ICMP’s broader efforts to address the issue of missing persons in the context of the Syrian conflict include facilitating dialogue among stakeholders, including a comprehensive policy process discussion, summarized in an October 2020 ICMP report. ICMP also facilitates the work of the Syrian Policy Coordination Group,  which is working to develop recommendations and a general policy framework on missing persons in Syria.

The campaign, supported by the German Federal Foreign Office, is one element in a long-term missing person process that ICMP is helping to establish. The process will endeavor to account for missing persons from the Syria conflict who are still alive as well as those who are deceased.


About ICMP

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. ICMP is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.


Contact ICMP