Original Language
Number of Pages
Reference Number
Date of upload

10 Jun 2021

Families of Missing Migrants: Their Search for Answers, the Impacts of Loss and Recommendations for Improved Support

Country report: Spain
Also available in:

This report is based on qualitative research conducted with families of missing migrants and civil society organizations in Spain. The findings show the challenges that families face when searching for their loved ones as well as the actions that they are already taking to look for them. The report also analyses the legal and institutional framework for tackling cases of missing persons and unidentified remains in Spain, examining its application to the specific context of irregular migration and how it helps or hinders families of missing or deceased migrants in accessing their right to information and justice. Through improving our understanding of the different lived experiences and needs of families of missing migrants, this research aims to help enhance institutional responses to the search for missing or deceased migrants so that more families can know the fate of their loved ones.

  • Acknowledgements
  • Figures and text boxes
  • Abbreviations
  • Assessment of the needs of families searching for relatives lost in the Central and Western Mediterranean
  • Executive summary
  • Chapter 1 – Migration journeys to Spain
    • 1. Introduction
    • 2. A look at irregular migration in Spain: Geographical and demographic dynamics
      • 2.1. Geographical dynamics 
      • 2.2. Sociodemographic dynamics
    • 3. Deaths and disappearances occurring during migration to Spain
      • 3.1. What is known about the deaths and disappearances of people migrating to Spain?
        • 3.1.1. Methodological issues
        • 3.1.2. Recorded deaths and disappearances resulting from irregular migration to Spain
    • References 
  • Chapter 2 – The experiences of families searching for relatives lost on migration routes to Spain
    • 1. Introduction
    • 2. Research methodology 
    • 3. Research findings
      • 3.1. “I wish people understood that the reasons people
      • have to migrate vary” – Leaving home behind: Decision-making and its implications
      • 3.2. “We want to know if he is alive or dead.
      • We just want to know something”: The search process
        • 3.2.1. The transnational nature of the search
        • 3.2.2. Searching together
        • 3.2.3. The role of community-based, grass-roots advocates
      • 3.3. “When my brother disappeared, we moved heaven and earth [to search for him]”: The challenges of the search
        • 3.3.1. Lack of financial resources
        • 3.3.2. Lack of regularized immigration status
        • 3.3.3. Focus on enforcement control and intelligence gathering 
        • 3.3.4. Families’ lack of trust in authorities
        • 3.3.5. Scams, fraud and extortion
        • 3.3.6. Navigating community expectations and cultural stereotypes
      • 3.4. Gender dimensions in missing migrants’ dynamics
    • 4. Conclusions
    • References
  • Chapter 3 – The search for deceased and missing migrants in Spain: Legal and institutional considerations
    • 1. Introduction
    • 2. Research methodology
    • 3. Institutional responses to deceased and missing migrants in Spain
      • 3.1. Procedures applicable to the recognition of absence or death
      • 3.2. Protocols and tools applicable to the search for missing persons  and identification of remains
        • 3.2.1. Police protocols applicable to cases of missing persons
        • 3.2.2. Tools assisting the search for missing persons
          and identification of remains
    • 4. Conclusions
    • References
  • Chapter 4 – Recommendations to improve the situation of families searching for relatives lost on migration routes to Spain