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

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03 Ago 2021

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

Country report: Zimbabwe

This research report contributes to the body of knowledge on the experiences of families of missing migrants in Zimbabwe as they search for their relatives and deal with the impacts of the loss. The disappearance of a migrant relative has deep impacts on the emotional, economic, social and legal conditions of the family members left behind, which have not yet been examined in the Zimbabwean context. The report is based on qualitative research conducted in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland province in December 2020 and January 2021, and it gives insights into the experiences of 22 families of missing migrants as they attempt to establish the circumstances surrounding their loved ones’ disappearances. The research found that the lack of clearly identifiable and accessible search mechanisms meant that most families of missing migrants in Zimbabwe did not even know where to start or whom to contact when their loved ones went missing. While many families were not aware that they could report the disappearance of their relative to the police, or did not know which agency or unit they should approach to file a report, others were highly sceptical of doing so. As a result, families turned to informal channels to search for their loved ones.

This report is part of a project carried out by IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre, which identifies and raises awareness of the challenges and coping mechanisms of people with missing migrant relatives in Ethiopia, Spain, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. It hopes to contribute to stronger and more appropriate legal and policy responses to support families of missing migrants. In particular, this report identifies recommendations that would help fulfil Zimbabwe’s commitments under SDG 10.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, through which States commit to cooperate closely at the international level to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration; and Objective 8 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which calls on States to “save lives and establish coordinated international efforts on missing migrants”.

  • Acknowledgements
  • Figure and text box
  • Abbreviations
  • Assessment of the needs of families searching for relatives lost
  • in the Central and Western Mediterranean
  • Executive summary
  • Chapter 1 – Migration journeys of Zimbabwean migrants
  • 1. Introduction 
  • 2. Emigration from Zimbabwe: Context and background 
  • 3. What is known about Zimbabwean missing migrants?
  • Chapter 2 – Methodology
  • 1. Research methods
  • Chapter 3 – Research findings
  • 1. The search process
  • 1.1. The decision to start the search
  • 1.2. Searching through informal channels
  • 1.3. Retracing their missing loved ones’ steps
  • 2. Challenges with the search
  • 2.1. Interactions with the authorities and the police
  • 2.2. Challenges related to the lack of immigration status and documentation
  • 2.3. Financial limitations
  • 3. Impacts of absence 
  • 3.1. Psychological impacts
  • 3.2. Shame and stigma
  • 3.3. Gender- and age-specific impacts of the disappearance
  • Chapter 4 – Conclusions and recommendations
  • Bibliography