Missing migrants

Due out February 2021

Deadline for submissions: 2nd November 2020

The FMR team will publish a short mini-feature (3–5 articles) on missing migrants.

Widely reported deaths along the ‘Mediterranean route’ towards Europe have focused attention on the number of people dying during dangerous sea crossings but have also highlighted the difficulty of knowing how many people may have perished undetected during these and other journeys in search of sanctuary, including along less-reported routes such as through the Sahara. Displaced people go missing in many different situations across the world, whether at the time of their displacement or when in displacement, including in refugee camps and detention facilities; their disappearances receive varying degrees of international attention but raise common questions of moral and legal responsibilities (for monitoring, reporting and preventing, for example) and to whom such responsibilities belong. Furthermore, the role of exploitative smuggling in facilitating difficult journeys also plays an important role in these questions of accountability.   

In some cases – such as in the case of armed conflict – international humanitarian and human rights law upholds families’ right to know what has happened to those who are missing, to be reunited with them if they are still living, and to mourn them if they are not. National legal frameworks such as national laws on missing persons may assist with such tasks. However, efforts to locate and identify displaced people who have disappeared may need to be coordinated along international or regional lines, the results of which may lead to criminal convictions and make a contribution to post-conflict justice and peacebuilding efforts.

The families of those who are missing may spend years or decades not knowing what has happened to their loved ones. The consequences of being left behind may include specific mental health and psychosocial challenges, impeded access to resources and to inheritance rights, and damage to social cohesion. Such consequences require careful consideration and resourcing; effective responses are critical for international cooperation, including peace building.

Actors at the local, national and international levels operate mechanisms to collect and use information to ‘resolve’ cases. Such technical assistance and expertise and the corresponding data produced may also be used for other purposes, including advocacy efforts around access to safer migration routes, calls for conflict resolution, or the need for effective, robust and monitored justice and reparations processes. Some such efforts have been led by relatives and by affected communities in the absence of assistance from national or international authorities, but in many other instances families have often found themselves unable to act, including where their missing relatives are refugees or because they themselves lack legal status.

We are looking for concise, pertinent, practice-oriented, challenging articles that present analysis, lessons and good practice with wide relevance. In particular, the FMR Editors are looking for submissions (from affected communities, advocates, practitioners, policymakers and researchers) that reflect a diverse range of experience and opinions and which address questions such as the following:

  • What challenges are there to the identification and tracing of missing migrants and to gathering information about the circumstances in which they have gone missing? What role does forensic expertise play in this regard?
  • What kinds of legal, economic and social consequences are faced by the relatives of missing migrants, and how can these consequences be mitigated?
  • What methods of estimation and/or measurement have been developed to address knowledge gaps, and how can they be used to improve the protection of people who are moving in search of sanctuary?
  • Are there successful models which facilitate the cooperation of States in disappearances that involve multiple jurisdictions? What roles do non-State actors have to play in such models?
  • How effective are national legal frameworks around missing persons in detecting and monitoring the disappearance of forced migrants?
  • What implications does the disappearance of displaced people have for policies relating to safe passage and access to asylum?
  • What examples exist of best practice relating to informing families of the whereabouts or fate of those who have gone missing?
  • What can be learned from the roles played by individuals, families and local communities in tracing people who have gone missing, and in advocacy and work on reparation?


BEFORE WRITING YOUR ARTICLE: If you are interested in contributing, please email the Editors at fmr@qeh.ox.ac.uk with a few sentences about your proposed topic so that we can provide feedback and let you know if we are interested in receiving your submission.

WHEN WRITING/SUBMITTING YOUR ARTICLE: Please take note of our guidelines for authors and ensure your article, when submitted, complies with our submission checklist: details at www.fmreview.org/writing-fmr. We do not accept articles that do not comply with our checklist.

We ask all authors to give appropriate consideration to the particular relevance of their responses to persons with disabilities, to LGBTIQ+ persons, to older persons, and to other groups with specific vulnerabilities, and to seek to include a gendered approach as part of their articles. And we are particularly keen to reflect the experiences and knowledge of communities and individuals directly affected by these questions.

Deadline for submission of articles: 2nd November 2020

Maximum length: 2,500 words.