A new guide in several languages aims to help families and loved ones who are searching for missing migrants. The guide also highlights the rights of families and the responsibilities of countries for those who are missing.
The search for a missing person on the road to exile often presents an obstacle course for relatives. This "long, hard and tiring" process is hampered by a lack of information about the missing person, but also by a lack of will on the part of countries involved.
To help families, the human rights organization Caminando Fronteras has published a guide that provides advice and recommendations for their search. The guide is available in several languages including French, Arabic, Wolof and Bambara. It emphasizes the fact that both relatives and missing persons have rights, and the various countries have responsibility for citizens who go missing.
1/ Gather information
If you have lost a loved one, the first thing to do is to gather as much information as possible about the missing person:
- Personal information: last name, first name, date and place of birth, identity document for the missing person if you have one.
- A recent photo.
- A physical description: height, weight, hair and eye color, any distinguishing marks such as tattoos or scars.
- Details of the clothing the person was wearing and the personal effects they were carrying at the time of their disappearance.
- The last known location of the missing person and the last contact with him/her.
- Contact information for their travelling companions.
Also read: Missing children: 'If they weren’t migrants, everyone would panic'
2/ Make an official report
Once this information has been collected, you must officially report the disappearance. This report is essential to start the search and can be made in the country of origin, the country where the person disappeared or the destination of the migrant to the police, an embassy or a consulate. It is advisable to do it in more than one country.
If you are in another country and cannot travel, you can still file a report at a police station in the country in which they went missing. The police are "obliged to process your complaint and transmit the report so that the police in the place of disappearance are activated," according to Caminando Fronteras.
It should be noted that anyone can file a report, including people who are not relatives of the missing person. The only document required is a proof of identity. If the police ask for another type of document, it is not necessary.
Caminando Fronteras also advises that you do not go alone to report the case. Firstly, "it is an anxious and painful moment," and, secondly, it can be useful to have someone else there if "you do not speak the language or you do not know the local administration."
Also read: Where are they? How to search for missing loved ones
3/ Get help
In its guide, Caminando Fronteras recommends that you get help from social organizations or from local community groups. They "have a lot of experience in searching for people," according to the association.
This is the case for the Red Cross, for example, which has set up a website called Trace the Face to help people who have lost a loved one to find them. You can contact the Red Cross offices directly in your country. They have a family tracing program and can help you with the process.
You can contact Caminando Fronteras on Whatsapp at +212 694 869 982 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
At the end of the guide you will also find the contacts of several associations in Spain and Morocco that can assist you.
During its research, Caminando Fronteras reported the existence of groups, organizations and individuals who were spreading false information about missing people. The association warns families always to "cross-check the information and try to get more than one source, like the ones you will find in this guide. Above all, do not give money to anyone."