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

Country Report: United Kingdom

While there are studies documenting the conditions under which migrant deaths or disappearances take place, few countries have paid attention to how families are impacted by these events and the ways in which they seek to clarify the fate and whereabouts of their missing relatives. This is the case of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (hereafter referred to as “the United Kingdom”), where despite the existence of vast diasporas and the country’s long-standing history of migration, there is scant knowledge and understanding of the experiences of missing migrants and their families. The research demonstrates that families’ experiences are shaped by multiple structural constraints, ranging from the circumstances in their countries of origin, the challenges in the places where their loved ones went missing, to their encounters with institutions within the United Kingdom. However, they are also the result of complex interactions shaped by ethnicity, class and gender. Combined, these factors often hinder well-intentioned efforts by families and institutions to get answers concerning the disappearances. This report points to the urgency to develop specific and targeted responses to the needs of the families of missing migrants in the context of the United Kingdom.

  • Acknowledgements
  • Figure 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 the United Kingdom
    • 1. Introduction
    • 2. The United Kingdom’s migration context 
    • 3. What is known about people who go missing or die on migration journeys towards the United Kingdom? 
    • References 
  • Chapter 2 – Families in the United Kingdom with missing relatives in the context of migration
    • 1. Introduction
    • 2. Research methodology 
    • 3. Research findings
      • 3.1. “If it wasn’t for the war, this wouldn’t have happened”: Contextualizing loss and separation 
      • 3.2. “Basically, you rely on friends”: Experiences of searching for missing migrants
        • 3.2.1. Migrant, asylum seeker and refugee organizations as sources of support
        • 3.2.2. Institutional forms of support
        • 3.2.3. “It was easier to spread the news that way”: Social and traditional media in the search for missing migrants
      • 3.3. Obstacles in the search for lost or missing migrants
        • 3.3.1. “You can’t really be searching because you have to hide yourself”: Challenges posed by the United Kingdom’s immigration system
        • 3.3.2. “If you are struggling to survive yourself, you can’t find someone”: Challenges posed by financial precarity 
        • 3.3.3. “Where do I even go [to] ask questions?”: Challenges posed by the lack of a search body or mechanism and a lack of awareness of existing courses of action
      • 3.4. Living with loss: Psychological impacts and harmful coping mechanisms
    • 4. Conclusion: What do families want?
    • References
  • Chapter 3 – The United Kingdom’s approach to missing migrants: Systems, policies, and frameworks 
    • 1. Introduction
    • 2. Methodology
    • 3. Findings: National legal frameworks relevant to missing migrants and their applicability
      • 3.1. Deceased migrants: Policy and legal frameworks
      • 3.2. Missing migrants: Policy and legal frameworks in context
      • 3.3. Multilateral legal and policy frameworks
    • 4. Findings: Relevant actors – Their role and context
      • 4.1. The United Kingdom’s Government and Parliament 
      • 4.2. Other State institutions at the national, regional and local levels
      • 4.3. The role of civil society 
        • 4.3.1. The role of the British Red Cross
        • 4.3.2. The role of international organizations and other actors
        • 4.3.3. The role of the families of missing migrants and their communities
    • 5. Conclusions
    • References 
  • Chapter 4 – Recommendations to improve the situation of families of missing migrants in the United Kingdom